A senior Israeli government official rushed to denounce a report Friday which alleged Mossad agents had posed as CIA officers in order to recruit members of a Pakistan-based terror group to commit assassinations and attacks in Iran.
The Israeli official called the Foreign Policy article "absolute nonsense." Quoting U.S. intelligence memos, journalist Mark Perry's story reported that the Mossad operation was carried out in 2007-2008, behind the back of the U.S. government and infuriated then U.S. President George W. Bush.
Perry quoted a number of American intelligence officials and claimed the Mossad agents used American dollars and U.S. passports to pose as CIA spies to try to recruit members of Jundallah, a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist terror organization that has carried out a series of attacks and assassinations of government officials in Iran.
Israel generally refrains from responding to reports on alleged Mossad activities. However, in the wake of Perry's report as well as the official U.S. condemnation of the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran on Wednesday, Israeli officials were quick to issue a complete denial of the report.
The concern was that leaving Perry's report unanswered would revive tensions that existed between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities following the Jonathan Pollard affair in the 1980s. Pollard was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison after being convicted of spying for Israel in 1987.
The senior Israeli government official said that if there were any truth to the claims in Perry's report, Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad at the time of the alleged operation, would have been declared persona non grata in the U.S. and wouldn't have been allowed to set foot in Washington again.
According to the report, Israel's recruitment attempts took place mostly in London, right under the nose of U.S. intelligence officials.
"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," Foreign Policy quoted an intelligence officer as saying. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
Perry noted that George W. Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when briefed on Mossad's alleged actions.
The journalist adds that an intelligence officer also informed him: "The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk. There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
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