An anonymous Western diplomat’s reported to Reuters Monday, Sept. 8, that “Israel has provided satellite imagery and other intelligence in support of the US-led aerial campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq.” He added that after “being ‘scrubbed’ of evidence of its Israeli origin, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies.”
debkafile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources reports that this claptrap is part of a deep game. While willing to share intelligence on Al Qaeda with the US, Israel would certainly not hand over satellite imagery or any other intelligence, knowing it would reach the hands of Turkey and possibly also Iran. Satellite imagery is far too sensitive to part with and gives away far too many secrets, like the its path, its capabilities, sensors and the resolution and angles of its cameras. Such material, if passed to anyone, would only be handed to a friendly head of state, a defense minister or a spy chief in exceptional circumstances.
There is also the remote possibility that the report was intended as a warning signal to draw to Israel’s notice that its intelligence-sharing mechanism had sprung an unauthorized leak.
The most far-fetched contention by the “Western diplomat” was that “Israeli spy satellites overflying Iraq at angles and frequencies unavailable to US satellites had provided images that allowed the Pentagon to fill out its information and get better battle damage assessments” after strikes on Islamic State targets.
This makes no sense at all. All spy satellite in the world fly at the same altitudes and angles. American satellites can perform any task Israel’s can – unless some interested party was deliberate hinting that Israel’s satellites were not only spying on IS in Iraq but also on Iran next door.
The Western diplomat went onto to advance the view that Israel was also sharing information “gleaned from international travel databases about Western citizens suspected of joining the insurgents…”
He commented sagely: “The Israelis are very good with passenger data and with analyzing social media in Arabic to get a better idea of who these people are,” he said.
Israel would no doubt be happy to dispense with this kind of “compliment.”
The entire song and dance was staged by the “Western diplomat” just hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to land in the Middle East for an urgent bid to get Arab partners aboard the US-led coalition for fighting IS, especially Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, as well as Egypt and Jordan.
He knows he is in for a hard time. Only Sunday, Sept. 7, the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo decided against coordinating their actions to fight extremist groups, including al Qaeda, with the US, but rather pursue their own “national and regional strategies against terrorism.”
Jordan, America’s closest Arab ally, announced flatly it would not join the US-led coalition.
Kerry will find stepping over this hurdle a tall order, especially as time is short before Wednesday, when President Barack Obama promises to unveil his strategy for a coalition to battle the Islamic State.
The Western diplomat may therefore have been dangling sensitive Israeli intelligence for fighting terrorism – that would be available only through Washington – as bait for reeling in reluctant Arab powers to support the Obama plan. Washington may find a second use for this tactic: breaking up the Saudi-Egyptian-UAR alliance which backed Israel in the Gaza war.