Yossi Klein Halevi provides the Israeli perspective in the New Republic.
The sense of betrayal within the Israeli security system is deep. After all, Israel’s great achievement in its struggle against Iran was in convincing the international community that the nuclear threat was real; now that victory has been undone–not by Russia or the European Union, but by Israel’s closest ally.
What makes Israeli security officials especially furious is that the report casts doubt on Iranian determination to attain nuclear weapons. There is a sense of incredulity here: Do we really need to argue the urgency of the threat all over again? The Israeli strategists I heard from ridicule the report’s contention that “Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.” Is it, asks one Israeli analyst sarcastically, a cost-benefit approach for one of the world’s largest oil exporters to risk international sanctions and economic ruin for the sake of a peaceful nuclear program?
No one with whom I’ve spoken believes that professional considerations, such as new intelligence, were decisive in changing the American assessment on Iran. What has been widely hailed in the American media as an expression of intelligence sobriety, even courage, is seen in the Israeli strategic community as precisely the opposite: an expression of political machination and cowardice. “The Americans often accuse us of tailoring our intelligence to suit our political needs,” notes a former top security official. “But isn’t this report a case study of doing precisely that?”
Adds a key security analyst: “The report didn’t surprise me. The [American intelligence] system isn’t healthy. It has been thoroughly politicized.
And today’s Telegraph reports that British Intelligence also is questioning the bases for the NIE’s conclusions.
British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran.
Analysts believe that Iranian staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation
The timing of the CIA report has also provoked fury in the British Government, where officials believe it has undermined efforts to impose tough new sanctions on Iran and made an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities more likely.
The security services in London want concrete evidence to allay concerns that the Islamic state has fed disinformation to the CIA.
The report used new evidence – including human sources, wireless intercepts and evidence from an Iranian defector – to conclude that Teheran suspended the bomb-making side of its nuclear programme in 2003. But British intelligence is concerned that US spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President Bush a reason to go to war – as their reports on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programmes did in Iraq – that they got it wrong this time.
A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons.
The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation.