do you want to know a secret?

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 23, 2003
    Do you want to know a secret?
    By URI DAN

    What is the source of the information British intelligence passed to the US administration about Saddam Hussein attempting to purchase uranium from Niger? London is not prepared to divulge this secret to Washington even now following suspicions that what found its way into President George W. Bush's speech on the eve of the war in Iraq was disinformation.

    Opponents of the war against Saddam, including politicians and journalists attacking Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, are exploiting this information error to censure the two leaders for their campaign against Baghdad, perhaps one of the most justified wars the US and Britain have waged, separately or together, since World War II.

    These critics deliberately ignore not only the criminal acts committed by Saddam's murderous regime, acts that are daily coming to light in Iraq, but also the tremendous amount of information accumulated by the US in the years preceding the war. Additional contributions to this reliable US intelligence databank regarding Saddam's capabilities and activities in the development of weapons of mass destruction intended to threaten the Middle East and the world were received independently from Britain and Israel.

    The British media attacks on Blair, led by the BBC, make one reflect on the negative role played by the media in a democracy that is attempting to destroy a dictatorship before it is too late.

    Imagine what would have happened to Winston Churchill, the greatest world leader of the 20th century, had he succeeded in persuading his government to go to war against the Third Reich before Hitler himself started the war Churchill had been warning about for years. According to the BBC's absurd current doctrine he would have been accused of exaggerating the dangers of the Nazi destruction machine in the absence of any discovery of the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz.

    Yet this would have been simply because Hitler and Eichmann had not had time to construct them. "Sexing-up the intelligence dossier" is how the BBC refers to it.

    Even the superpower with the largest eyes and ears in the world needs intelligence support from loyal allies such as Britain and Israel to combat terror and WMDs. How this cooperation between Israel and the US developed could fill many volumes of suspense stories, starting from the information Israel gave the US in the war against Saddam that the Iraqis were holding PoW Jessica Lynch, and going back decades.

    WHAT CAN be revealed today is that twice in less than 10 years the Israeli intelligence community passed on warnings to the US administration regarding the secret efforts being made by two Muslim countries to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel acquired this sensitive information before the CIA knew of it.

    In 1990, on the eve of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the Mossad succeeded in obtaining clear proof that Saddam was once again attempting to acquire nuclear weapons for the first time since IAF aircraft bombed the French-made Osirak reactor in Baghdad on June 7, 1981. A delegation that included a senior Mossad representative left for Washington in summer 1990 to meet with secretary of defense Dick Cheney and present him with the intelligence.

    Israel surprised the US for the second time at the end of the Nineties, when a senior representative of the IDF General Staff Intelligence Branch presented US experts with operational data indicating that Iran was receiving aid from Russia to develop nuclear weapons. President Bill Clinton, honeymooning with Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin, wanted to believe that a moderate wind was blowing from Iran.

    The American intelligence community, not at all ready to heed Israel's warning, first became so angry with the envoy, a senior Israeli intelligence officer, that they almost threw him out. What's more, Moscow's intelligence service, using a senior Israeli official, succeeded in blurring the real significance of Russia's nuclear aid to Iran, deceiving Jerusalem, and saying that the Israeli information was actually baseless. In fact, the danger emanating from Iran is constantly growing.

    All this is to explain that Israel's long-term intelligence cooperation, mainly with the US, should not be taken for granted. It follows the rule among intelligence services in the democracies the US and Britain, France, Germany, and Israel: No-one buys a pig in a poke. Thus information is checked and cross-checked; but mistakes can occur.

    The Jewish state is the only democracy in the world whose close and distant neighbors threaten its very existence. Clearly, therefore, its intelligence organization does not wait for foreign intelligence reports but devotes special efforts to uncovering the secrets of its enemies' attempts to acquire WMDs.

    It can be difficult to convince a foreign country of the veracity of such information. During the Seventies Israel acquired very reliable information that the nuclear reactor Jacques Chirac sold Saddam Hussein had been intended for the manufacture of nuclear weapons something France cynically and hypocritically denied. The US didn't want to hear. Only at the end of 1980, in an official letter he brought to Begin, did the US ambassador in Israel, Samuel Lewis, confirm what Israel feared. This letter gave Begin the diplomatic encouragement he needed to speed up the plan to bomb the Osirak reactor while concealing this from the US.

    In 1982, after Yasser Arafat's expulsion from Beirut, Israeli intelligence reported that the USSR had deployed a missile battery system of the latest type (used for the defense of Moscow) to defend Damascus. Ambassador Lewis rejected the report. A few hours later he changed his mind and confirmed the Israeli information of which the interpreters of US satellite reports had until then been unaware.

    As regards the information supplied to Washington about a uranium deal between Niger and Saddam, here British intelligence was unlucky. A former senior Israeli intelligence officer told me in London: "I remember a similar report about Niger reaching Israel about seven years ago. The source was French. This was during the period when France out of economic interest, naturally wanted to exacerbate the crisis between Britain and the US, and Saddam.

    "One cannot dismiss the possibility that those false French intelligence reports about uranium from Niger were deliberately circulated."

    The writer is Israel correspondent for The New York Post.

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