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Our defenders at the CIA

(Jewish Ideas Daily) — News flash: Top-secret intelligence memos written during the last years of the Bush administration describe covert activities — in intelligence parlance, a “false flag” operation — by Israeli Mossad officers, posing as American CIA agents, who recruited assassins from Jundallah, an obscure Pakistan-based Sunni Muslim terrorist organization, to target Iranian nuclear scientists. Jundallah had a history of targeting Iranian civilians; indeed, American intelligence was barred from “even the most incidental contact” with them. Yet the Israelis brazenly negotiated with them under British and American noses in London; and in doing so, they put American lives at risk by inviting Iranian attacks in kind. According to a CIA source, when the news reached the White House, President Bush “went ballistic.”

Or so Mark Perry would have you believe in his recent article in the magazine Foreign Policy.

Perry has run an organization called the Conflicts Forum, which specializes in what it calls “dialogue with a wide range of leading Islamists,” prominently including Hamas and Hezbollah. In 1989 he became “unofficial advisor” to Yasir Arafat, head of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization. Perry maintained his role until Arafat’s death in 2004.

None of this background is disclosed by Foreign Policy.

The Israeli government, whose policy is not to confirm or deny involvement in intelligence operations, has broken its general silence to call his story “absolute nonsense.” There is external corroboration of Israel’s position. In recent years, three high-ranking Israeli intelligence and defense officials have been forced to resign their posts because of Israeli actions that U.S. officials deemed against American interests — actions far less damaging than the “false flag” operation Perry describes. Yet Meir Dagan, who was chief of Mossad at the time of the alleged operation, not only kept his job but remained a Washington favorite.

So, what to make of the memos? Who were the two CIA sources that told Perry about them? Who were the six “currently serving or recently retired” CIA sources who confirmed the “level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel’s actions?” Perry provides so little detail about his sources—How many current? How many retired? When? What were their roles in the Bush administration’s venomous internal policy debates? — that it is hard to tell.

Conceivably, the memos were fabrications. More likely, they exist but were wrong, for honest or dishonest reasons. In Perry’s own account, they were written for an exculpatory purpose: to rebut press accusations that the United States was fomenting assassinations in Iran. When the U.S. intelligence community becomes embroiled in this kind of public controversy, the quality of the data and analysis it produces is — well, less than impeccable. That, surely, is the lesson of the American debate over the existence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Perry’s article is subtly deceitful, not to mention deeply hypocritical. He emphasizes the particular danger to Americans from Jundallah’s provocation of Iran through terrorist acts against Iranian civilians. Yet this alarm about the consequences of terror comes from a man who advised Arafat and pushes “dialogue” with Hamas and Hezbollah. This solicitude toward civilians is shown by a man who makes no mention of the terror wreaked by Iran on its own citizens. Indeed, Perry’s priority, in addition to tarnishing Israel’s image, seems to be the softening of Iran’s, a country that he portrays as the hapless victim of a malevolent Jewish plot, actualized by Jundallah’s Sunni madmen over protestations from a weak-willed America.

The one certainty about Perry’s piece is that it is provocative. Doubtless that, in part, motivated the editors of the Washington Post-owned Foreign Policy to publish it. The magazine has established itself as an industry leader in online Israel-bashing – hosting a blog by Stephen Walt, co-author of the notorious book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, and producing polemic such as this recent article lambasting the Republican presidential candidates’ near-unanimous support for the Jewish state.

Perry is at his most vivid in describing CIA anger at Mossad aggressiveness. “Israel regularly proposes” targeting Iranians, one unnamed source says: “They come into the room and spread out their plans,” and “we say to them . . . [T]he answer is no.”  (This is the same Israel that was so close-mouthed about the Jundallah caper?) As if in defense of the CIA’s and Foreign Policy’s position, Perry quotes an intelligence official—unnamed, naturally—as saying, “Israel is. . .  supposed to be a strategic asset.

Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don’t think that’s true.” That much is evident in the pages of Foreign Policy, which has found itself an entrenched prospect and seems to be enjoying the view.

(This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily ( and is reprinted with permission.)