Israel’s new Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo (who was named here days before his official appointment, breaking an Israeli gag order) has, according to the Telegraph’s Gordon Thomas (known for spinning a few fancy fictions about the Mossad), arranged for a meeting next month with his British counterparts to apologize for the agency’s cloning of the passports of a dozen British citizens in its hit against Hamas senior operative, Mahmoud al-Mabouh, in Dubai. According to Thomas, he will promise never to abuse British passports again in such an Israeli operation. Of course, the problem is that in the 1980s Israel did precisely the same thing and promised the Thatcher government it would never abuse British sovereignty again. Guess what happened? And can you ever believe these guys?
Britain, in retaliation for the flagrant offense, expelled Mossad’s London station chief and put all intelligence coordination on hold, a major blow not just to substantive Mossad spy activity, but also to its prestige.
The redeeming circumstance for Israel that Thomas has dug up in this case is that Pardo, then Mossad number 2, allegedly opposed use of foreign passports for the operation and was overruled by the big, bad then-agency chief, Meir Dagan. So Dagan gets to be the bad guy, with the hope being that the new guy, Pardo, cleans up the mess his former boss made and all is well in this best of all possible spy worlds.
Pardo, according to Thomas, will bring all sorts of peace offerings and other techno-goodies in his sulha with the heads of MI5 and MI6, foreign minister Hague and home secretary May. He will bring new face recognition software which may (or may not) help identify the killers of MI6 codebreaker, Gareth Williams. What is of course deliciously ironic about this is that the Dubai police used their own facial recognition software to identify the Israeli agents who murdered al-Mabouh. Maybe Pardo should be making his next trip to Dubai to check out the competition?
He will also feed his British counterparts more of that good spook stuff that Mossad peddles concerning Iran (and hope they credit it). Thomas notes that Mossad is one of the few western intelligence agencies with agents inside Iran. My hunch is that what he really means is that the Israelis have cooked up a marriage of convenience with the Mujahadeen a-Khalq (MKO) and Jundallah, whereby the latter provide agents to plant bombs to kill Iranian scientists.
Similarly, the Mossad has been known to plant Iranian government forgeries with its MKO friends, who trumpet the fakes to the world as legitimate documents proving Iran is developing a nuclear trigger device, or whatever fraud of the moment Mossad is attempting to pass off as bona fide. That’s, I think what Thomas really means when he says Mossad has agents in Iran. It doesn’t really. It has collaborators in the sense that the U.S. collaborated with the Afghani mujahadeen against the Soviets in the 1970-80s. And look where that got us.
I find it interesting and suggestive that Thomas has Pardo offering to expand its surveillance of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency (remember, the Russians assassinated a turncoat agent in London several years ago and relations have never been the same with the Putin government).
A few months ago, a senior Russian spy operative was mysteriously assassinated in Syria. He was rumored to have been deeply involved in arming Syrian and Hezbollah. Suspicion fell, as it often does in such circumstances, on the Israelis, though many thought even Israel would not have the b&$$s to take out one of Putin’s top foreign agents.
One wonders whether Israel is trying to subtly pass along a message to the Russians that if they don’t play ball concerning Iran (stopping its involvement with the Bushehr reactor, cancelling anti-aircraft contracts, approving sanctions, etc.) that Israel will do its best to make its life miserable in whatever ways small and large it can. And of course two can play at this game as well…
My guess is that there are other matters in bilateral British-Israeli relations that be in play as well. Israel desperately wants its generals and political leaders to be able to spread the Good News about Israel in Britain, but they’ve been prevented from doing so by a series of nasty arrest warrants taken out by human rights activists. They threaten to dump Israel’s representatives in a British prison in consideration of possible war crimes charges against them (remember Operation Cast Lead?).
I’m guessing that Prime Minister Cameron may be negotiating some sort of package deal of Israeli promises and British counter-promises whereby each side will be able to say it got something worthwhile out of the deal. My hope of course is that this isn’t the case and that Parliament will not squash the provision allowing for international war crimes arrest warrants in Britain. But it’s possible the Cameron government will do its best to do away with this excellent measure allowing for accountability for those who may be guilty of war crimes.
The question is whether Thomas’ report has merit and such a meeting will happen; and whether the Brits will be lulled by the fairy dust Pardo will sprinkle on them.
This article was originally published at Tikun Olam and is reprinted with the author’s permission.