Analysis: Mossad shows its capabilities – but there is no smoking gun

Israel presents classified intelligence material on Iran’s nuclear programme

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu  during a news conference at the ministry of defence in Tel Aviv on Monday. Photograph:  Reuters/Amir Coheno

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a news conference at the ministry of defence in Tel Aviv on Monday. Photograph: Reuters/Amir Coheno

 

Binyamin Netanyahu believes Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, and any attempt by Tehran to obtain a nuclear bomb must be thwarted at all costs. The Israeli prime minister also argues that the nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the world powers in 2015 paves the way for Tehran to obtain a nuclear bomb in the future.

This explains his decision to take the very unusual step of revealing classified intelligence material on Iran’s nuclear programme in a Tel Aviv news conference on Monday night. Government minister Ze’ev Elkin, from Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, said the goal of the exposure was to provide the US with information that would lead President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.

The most important message – to the public in Israel, to Iran and to the entire world – that emerged from the dramatic, almost theatrical, presentation was that the Israeli Mossad has extraordinary operational capabilities.

Seizing control of the Iranian nuclear archives in Tehran, as it claims to have done, and bringing half a tonne of secret documents to Israel was an impressive feat that any spy agency would have been proud of.

James Bond films

Construction minister Yoav Galant says the intelligence on Iran is an unprecedented achievement for the Mossad, saying that even in James Bond films they have not thought of such things. He stated that anyone who sees the intelligence achievement will infer from it about Israel’s military capability, and will be careful not to take hasty steps.

However, former deputy director of Mossad, Ram Ben-Barak, believes that members of the Israeli intelligence community were strongly opposed to Netanyahu’s exposure of the secret intelligence.

“I am convinced that an absolute majority of the intelligence and military officials were opposed to this presentation. What was the point? Apart from national pride, what was achieved by broadcasting it in such a dramatic way, as if you were unveiling a new and revolutionary mobile phone to the world.”

Single item

Conspicuous by its absence in Netanyahu’s presentation was a smoking gun. Had Netanyahu succeeded in showing the world even a single item that proved that Tehran was violating the nuclear agreement, the picture would be entirely different.

The information may facilitate a Trump exit from the Iran nuclear deal, but is unlikely to persuade the other five world power signatories to withdraw from the deal.

Opposition chair Yitzhak Herzog said it was correct to expose Iran’s conduct on the nuclear issue, but he expressed concern over the anxiety that gripped the public for hours prior to Netanyahu’s announcement, with rumours circulating that he was about to declare war on Iran.

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