The New American
An explosive report published late last week by the magazine Foreign Policy, citing half-a-dozen current and former U.S. intelligence officers, claimed that spies with Israel's Mossad agency were posing as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents to recruit terrorists for a covert war against Iran. An Israeli official, however, dismissed the allegations as "nonsense."
According to the sources cited in the article, Israeli intelligence operatives were using American passports and wads of U.S. dollars to pose as CIA officers. The deception was reportedly used to recruit members of the notorious Pakistani terror group Jundallah, an organization on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations known for assassinations and brutal killings of women and children.
The Israeli operations were taking place in major cities such as London - almost out in the open - according to the report. They were aimed at enlisting the support of violent extremists to help disrupt the Iranian regime's nuclear program, which many U.S. and Israeli officials have alleged is actually a cover to build atomic weapons.
Bush administration officials were reportedly furious after learning of the "false-flag" scheme, according to the report. One currently serving U.S. intelligence officer cited in the piece claimed that then-President George W. Bush "went absolutely ballistic" after being briefed on secret memos detailing the alleged Mossad operations.
The same source said White House officials were concerned that the Israeli program was putting Americans at risk. It also had the potential to further disrupt the U.S. government's tenuous relationship with the regime ruling Pakistan, which recently cut all NATO supply routes to occupation troops in Afghanistan following an unrelated incident.
Finally, Foreign Policy reported, the alleged Israeli scheme undermined official U.S. government claims that it does not wage the terror war using terrorism. And it could have sparked retaliatory acts of violence on American personnel.
"This was stupid and dangerous," the U.S. intelligence agent who first blew the whistle on the Israeli operations told Foreign Policy. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're 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."
According to the report, little was done when the U.S. government first uncovered the plot, though a heated debate ensued among senior Bush administration officials regarding Israel. When President Obama took over, however, his administration reportedly curtailed several joint intelligence-gathering operations aimed at Iran.
News of the Mossad operations has been picked up by media outlets around the world, including major Israeli newspapers such as the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. Officials in the United States have not openly confirmed the report. And the Israeli government, in keeping with policy, did not officially confirm or deny the allegations.
But not everyone was surprised to hear about the alleged operation. "This certainly isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the worst case I've heard of," former Centcom chief and retired U.S. Gen. Joe Hoar told Foreign Policy. "But while false-flag operations are hardly new, they're extremely dangerous. You're basically using your friendship with an ally for your own purposes. Israel is playing with fire. It gets us involved in their covert war, whether we want to be involved or not."
The latest victim in what analysts call a covert war against Iran was a senior nuclear scientist at the Natanz facility. He was murdered last week when men on a motorcycle planted a magnetic bomb on his car, making him at least the fourth casualty of the scientist-assassination campaign in recent years.
The Iranian government immediately blamed American and Israeli intelligence services for the high-profile murder. Some news reports, meanwhile, claimed it was carried out by the Islamo-Marxist terror group Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) with secret backing from the Mossad.
Israeli officials half-heartedly denied involvement - officially, at least. But several senior leaders in Israel have admitted that there are ongoing operations aimed at stopping the Iranian nuclear program, and news reports citing unnamed Israeli officials claimed the Mossad was directly responsible. American and British officials categorically denied any involvement.
The Foreign Policy article, entitled "False Flag," has sparked a significant debate online about the role of intelligence agencies in Iran - as well as calls to rein them in. A false-flag operation is a mission designed to deceive the public or a target audience about who was responsible. Such operations have been carried out by governments and non-state actors throughout history.
An unnamed senior Israeli official was quoted in Haaretz calling the most recent false-flag allegations "absolute nonsense," saying that, if they were true, ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan would never have been allowed back into the United States and would have instantly been declared a persona non grata.
The officials cited in the piece did not know whether similar Mossad operations were still going on. And as with everything related to the secret world of espionage, much remains unclear.