Spy vs. spy

Wikileaks: Israel destroyed Iran’s nuclear program last year

Millions of emails by analysts at US intelligence company Stratfor are published, with claims that Israelis and Kurds covertly attacked Iran

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak, one of many sites that make up the Iranian nuclear program (CC-BY Nanking10, Wikimedia Commons)
The Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak, one of many sites that make up the Iranian nuclear program (CC-BY Nanking10, Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli agents collaborating with Kurdish operatives destroyed Iran’s nuclear infrastructure last year, according to an unnamed Israeli intelligence source cited in communiques between intelligence analysts uncovered by Wikileaks on Monday.

The leaked emails also contain assessments that Europeans want a military strike against Tehran to divert attention from the euro crisis and that Henry Kissinger believes a panicking Israel will indeed attack the Islamic regime.

Under the headline “The Global Intelligence Files,” the whistleblower website Wikileaks on Monday published more than five million emails by analysts belonging to the Texas-based intelligence company Stratfor between July 2004 and December 2011. Stratfor, which calls itself a “provider of geopolitical analysis,” is believed to provide intelligence to corporations and government agencies, such as the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

Though rumors circulated on the Internet after the emails were leaked that Stratfor founder and CEO George Friedman had resigned, he remains at the helm of the firm, the company tweeted.

While many of the leaked emails, which are available on the Wikileaks site, deal with internal American affairs, a large number deal with Israel and tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.

On Monday, Stratfor released a statement calling the leaks “a deplorable, unfortunate — and illegal — breach of privacy.” The statement further said that while some of the emails might be accurate others could be forged. “We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”

‘Don’t think of them as going in on a helicopter, think of them as going in with a group of migrant workers crossing the border’

On November 7, 2011, a Stratfor analyst reported on a conversation he had with an Israeli intelligence agent. The analyst, Benjamin Preisler, said that the source — whose reliability the company was “still testing” — was asked what he thought of reports that Israel was planning a military strike on Iran.

“I think this is a diversion,” the source said, according to Preisler’s email. “The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago. The current ‘let’s bomb Iran’ campaign was ordered by the EU leaders to divert the public attention from their at home financial problems.”

Replying to Preisler’s email, several senior analysts at Stratfor expressed doubt about that scenario.

“Would anyone actually accept that this could let the Europeans forget about the Euro crisis, something they have been experiencing every day for over a year?!” wrote Sydney-based Chris Farnham.

Two days later, Farnham sent another email, saying that the Israeli agent’s information “seems like quite a stretch however it has been put out there for some reason or another and is now playing in to what we are seeing.”

According to Farnham, the Israeli agent was asked to clarify what he meant when he said that Israel destroyed the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

The agent answered: “Israeli commandos in collaboration with Kurd forces destroyed few underground facilities mainly used for the Iranian defense and nuclear research projects.”

Farnham further writes that if a direct military confrontation erupts between Jerusalem and Tehran, an Israeli attack on Iran would last “only 48 hours but will be so destructive that Iran will be unable to retaliate or recover and the government will fall. It is hard to believe that Hamas or Hezbollah will try to get involved in this conflict.”

He added, “Even if the Israelis have the capabilities and are ready to attack by air, sea and land, there is no need to attack the nuclear program at this point after the commandos destroyed a significant part of it.”

However, Farnham also wrote that it is unlikely that Israel will launch an attack on the mullah’s regime.

How did Israeli agents operate in the heart of Iran?

Kamran Bokhari, Stratfor’s Toronto-based vice president of Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs, then asked how Israeli commandos managed to operate deep inside Iran without being detected.

Sean Noonan, a tactical analyst for Stratfor, answered that Israel most likely used proxies for this mission. “But if not,” he added, “special operations forces do often move undetected. Don’t think of them as going in on a helicopter, think of them as going in with a group of migrant workers crossing the border. There used to be a lot of jews [sic] in Iran, not so much anymore.”

Analyst Abe Selig then wrote that there are still about 20,000 Jews in Iran but added that he thinks they are “far too scared of being accused as Israeli spies too [sic] actually help Israel out.”

But Israel could easily recruit a Farsi-speaking Iranian immigrant, Noonan argued. “I don’t know that this is happening nor do I assume that there would not be mistakes, but its [sic] very possible to do this undetected. The key is recruiting human agents on the bases. This was clearly done with stuxnet, though it may have been unknowingly.”

Stuxnet was a computer virus that set back the Iranian nuclear program. It is widely believed to have been circulated by Israel or the US.

The analyst who handled the Israeli agent argued that just because the media hasn’t reported something doesn’t mean it couldn’t be true.

“If we think the Izzies [Israelis] have set back waiting on Iran to create a bomb we are like the CIA with their inability to predict just about anything,” he wrote.

Kissinger believes a panicked Israel will attack Iran

In 2010, George Friedman, then Stratfor’s CEO, reported on a meeting he had with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger. According to the email, Kissinger believed that “the Israelis are in a panic and will attack Iran.” Kissinger also said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told him that he planned to break with Israel “at some point,” reorient his country toward the Islamic world and become its leader.

Asked whether he thinks Israel might attack Iran, Friedman — the son of Holocaust survivors — responded that he believes that the US will launch a preemptive strike. He added that there was no clear timeline on a course of action.

Bokhari, Stratfor’s Middle East expert, responded by saying that all his sources, “regardless of factional affiliation, are convinced that Iran is preparing for war and one that will make the regime more stronger.”

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