Today Ehud Barak, Israel’s hardline defense minister, stated that U.S. intelligence is finally coming around to the Israeli (i.e. pessimistic, sky-falling) position on Iranian nuclear development. As reported by CBS, Barak stated, “As far as we know, it comes very close to our own estimate, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates. It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one and it is even less likely that we will know every development in time on the Iranian nuclear program.”
Translation: get ready to pull those chocks and get the F-15Is rolling!
Barak was responding to a report today in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz about a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), allegedly on Iranian nukes. Barak – one of the world’s most interesting people, IMHO – has many faults, but stupidity isn’t one of them. The guy has several degrees in tough STEM-like subjects, led the IDF’s super-spooky SAYERET MAT’KAL (think Delta or DEVGRU but possibly more hardcore), rising to the head of the Israeli military and – along the way – becoming the most decorated soldier in his country’s history. Did I mention he’s a highly accomplished pianist?
This guy doesn’t do “slips of the tongue” when the mike is on. Period.
And he’s talking about an NIE or something like it; he later backtracked a bit on what exactly it was, though he seemed to have a good handle on what it said.
A couple rules of the road. NIEs are very special things, exceptionally LIMDIS (limited distribution); when I was a full-time spook I didn’t read them – that was way above my pay-grade. That’s for the White House and related bigwigs. And they are always NOFORN: not for foreigners.
So, a few possibilities. Barak and his government are playing one huge head-fake with Obama, whom they openly dislike, even though he just dumped more money on Israel. Or, they have seen it – how, exactly, this former counterspy wonders – and are diming out DC in a very tough game of hardball.
Regardless, the rules of the spy game are clear and have been since Moses was a boy. When intelligence services share information, as they do every day, you don’t pass it to third parties without clearance. Ever. And if you do, eventually you will get burned and nobody will want to play marbles with you.
Israel clearly feels that spy rules don’t apply to them, especially where the Americans are concerned, but even so this is a new low, when Barak feels he can casually, on air, divulge exceptionally closely held U.S. secrets.
Just when the Obama administration begins to get a handle on its huge leak problems inside the Beltway, there’s a whole new universe of problems to contend with. The historian in me is struggling to find a parallel for an international intel mess of this sort, at this high a level, and I’m not finding a good match. This, my friends, is a whole new ballgame.
Can’t wait to hear what
Dan Senor Mitt Romney has to say about this one …