The acrimony reached a nadir with an unusually detailed Association Press report on July 28 quoting anonymous sources as stating, “The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency’s New East Division,” – the group that oversees spying across he Middle East.
Prime Minister Binyamin’s Office reviled its content, including allegations of Mossad intrusions of US officials’ homes, as “a lying report.”
This leak had two objectives, says debkafile:
1. To deter US presidential candidate Mitt Romney from using his visit to Israel Sunday and Monday July 29-30 to promise, if elected in November, to review Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence for spying for Israel, which all previous US presidents have refused to do at the CIA's behest. It has been suggested that he may be considering going on record with this pledge to win Jewish votes.
2. To hit back at the Israel watchers dogging the footsteps of CIA agents planted in a widely-flung undercover network for picking up any clues that Israeli preparations for a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear program are moving into operational phase.
Although American and Israeli officials habitually stress the commonalty of the two government’s decisions on Iran – and top US officials are again turning up in Israel every few days – President Barack Obama still can’t be sure that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak won’t take him off-guard by springing an attack at a date earlier than the one under discussion between them.
debkafile’s Washington sources report that October is often mentioned these days in the White House, the Pentagon and top military command as the month to watch. Persian Gulf capitals are also on guard for an October attack although they prefer an American to an Israeli strike.
High-ranking Saudi princes have been telling Western officials on recent visits to the kingdom that they received Washington’s assurance that the Israelis would strike first and the Americans join in later.
Riyadh has tried to persuade the Obama administration that the US must go first and do its utmost to keep the Israelis out of it altogether. The Saudis were told that Washington is doing what it can to hold Israel back but can’t be sure of succeeding.
Obama’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon discussed Iran and Syria with the Israeli prime minister when he visited Jerusalem on July 14. He did indeed share with him the US contingency plan for an operation against Iran, as reported – except for one salient piece of information: He could not say whether or not the US President had decided to execute it.
The information he received from Netanyahu was that Israel is on the point of a decision to attack Iran but has not yet settled on a date.
July 26, twelve days later, Barak was more outspoken: Israel, he said, faced "tough and crucial decisions" about its security and future. "I am well aware of the difficulties involved in thwarting Iran's attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon. However, it is clear to me without a doubt that dealing with the threat itself will be far more complicated, far more dangerous and far more costly in resources and human life than thwarting it."
This was a broad hint that Israel no longer regarded action for preempting Iran’s nuclear program to be optional. It came in response to the Islamic Republic’s steady advance towards weapons-grade uranium enrichment – up to 30 percent grade in recent months in parallel with nuclear negotiations with the world powers – and its published plans for producing Highly-Enriched Uranium (HEU) usable for propelling ships engines, but also for fueling nuclear bombs.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is the latest high-powered American official due to visit Israel. Wednesday, Aug. 1, he will sit down with Israeli leaders. They will no doubt continue talking about the date of an attack on Iran and try to pull US and Israeli timelines and plans together onto a single, agreed track.
But none of the discussions between the two governments has so far tied Israel down to an agreed date or plan of action. Netanyahu is holding tight to the option of a surprise attack – hence the dense network of CIA agents lurking behind every official and military corner in Israel. They are pouncing and reporting on the slightest clue to the IDF switching to operational mode for a strike on Iran.
debkafile’s Western intelligence sources, who don’t recall ever seeing so extensive an undercover CIA presence in Israel, report that Israeli security agencies have gone to extraordinary lengths to counter their access to classified information about IDF activities.
As a result of this duel, US and Israel spy agencies are at daggers drawn, as evinced in the AP report.