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Bennett, Biden face intelligence sharing gap left by Netanyahu – report

CM 26/08/2021

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One issue facing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden as they are set to meet on Thursday is a major gap in intelligence-sharing left by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report by The New York Times.
The meeting comes as Israel warns that Iran is getting closer to obtaining the materials needed for a nuclear weapon and that a military option must be prepared, although American officials continue to express a preference for a diplomatic solution.
While Netanyahu had worked together closely with the administration of former President Donald Trump, Israel’s procedures changed once Biden entered office, with intelligence-sharing between the two countries being significantly rolled back.

When Israel allegedly attacked the Natanz nuclear facility in April, for example, the Mossad supposedly gave the US less than two hours notice before the blast, American and Israeli officials told the Times, leaving the US with no time to assess the operation or ask for it to be called off.
VIEW OF a damaged building after a fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan on July 2. (credit: ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION OF IRAN/WANA VIA REUTERS)VIEW OF a damaged building after a fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan on July 2. (credit: ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION OF IRAN/WANA VIA REUTERS)
Senior Biden administration officials said that the Israelis had in some way violated an unwritten agreement to at least advise the US about covert operations, with CIA Director William J. Burns calling Mossad chief Yossi Cohen to express concerns about the move. Cohen stated that the late notice was due to operational constraints and uncertainty about when the operation would take place, according to the report.
The Times report claimed that Netanyahu ordered his national security officials to reduce the amount of information they conveyed to the US about planned operations in Iran, with Israeli officials stating that this was done because Americans had leaked information about some Israeli operations, although US officials denied this. Other Israel officials told the Times that the Biden administration had been inattentive to their security concerns and too focused on returning to the Iranian nuclear deal.
While the US has sources of information on Iran such as electronic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, it lacks the resources that Israel has, such as an in-country spy network.
Intelligence sharing declined during the Obama administration as well, which kept the existence of the negotiations with Iran a secret from Israel, a former administration official told the Times, although Israel learned about the meetings from its own sources.
A former Israeli official added that Netanyahu was convinced that American spy agencies kept him under surveillance.
During the Trump administration, however, cooperation increased dramatically. When the Mossad stole Iran’s nuclear archives in 2018, Trump and then-CIA director Mike Pompeo were the only foreign officials briefed in advance.
Cohen presented Trump administration officials with a new Iran strategy involving aggressive covert operations, during meetings in late 2019 and early 2020. Israel allegedly proceeded to launch a wave of covert operations, keeping the Trump administration informed of the operations, including cyber and bombing attacks and the assassination of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The two countries also cooperated to kill former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and an al-Qaeda leader who was hiding in Tehran, according to the Times.
That relationship cooled once the Biden administration took office and began efforts to return to the nuclear deal. Cohen attempted to repair the relationship with the US in his final months as Mossad chief, a senior Israeli official told the Times, promising a more transparent intelligence relationship.
The challenge facing Bennett as he meets with Biden is how to convince the US to allow Israel to continue its secret operations in Iran.
“The US and Israel must jointly identify the redlines so that if Iran crosses them, Israel can act to prevent it from achieving military nuclear capacity,” Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, a former director of Israeli military intelligence, told the Times.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned on Wednesday that Iran is just two months away from acquiring the materials needed for a nuclear weapon.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi warned as well that Israel is accelerating its operational plans against Iran due to the progress of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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