Herzlia, Israel – “It must be clear to Israel that the chances of an American operation against Iran in the last year of George W. Bush’s term in the White House are nil,” John Bolton, the U.S.’s former ambassador to the U.N., said on Tuesday at the annual Herzliya security conference .
Mr. Bolton also criticized the decision of his government and of Israel’s to expose the nature of the target of the attack in northern Syria last September.
Mr. Bolton said Israel must not publish information that will lead to the revelation of its sources of intelligence about the operation in Syria. It also must not tell how it succeeded in carrying out the operation. But it is impossible to defend the decision to hold information back from the public about the nature of the compound that was attacked.
On Monday, high-ranking members of the intelligence communities of the United States and Israel met at the Herzliya Conference in order to speak about the Iranian nuclear program, and reached the conclusion that it will be almost impossible to preserve stable mutual deterrence in the Middle East when several countries possess a nuclear weapons arsenal.
The American side of the talks included representatives of organizations that wrote the report last month claiming Iran had frozen its military nuclear program in 2003 in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq. In a round-table discussion that was held on the fringes of the Herzliya Conference and was closed to the media, the American representatives told their hosts, which included Mossad and Israeli General Security Services (GSS) officials, that the media had exaggerated in its description of the American report as clearing Tehran.
Meanwhile, a delegation of high-ranking officials of American intelligence agencies visited Israel secretly over the past week.
The goal of the visit: to re-examine the American intelligence assessment that was published a month and a half ago that Iran stopped its military nuclear program in 2003.
American intelligence officials who were involved in writing the National Intelligence Estimate said if the intelligence that was received from Israel sheds new light on the Iranian nuclear program, they will not hesitate to change the report’s conclusions.
At the beginning of December, 16 American intelligence agencies presented an updated national intelligence assessment that determined that Iran had stopped the military portion of its nuclear program five years ago. From this assessment, the Americans concluded that Iran’s military nuclear program had been postponed to the middle of the next decade.
American and Israeli commentators believed then the position of American intelligence would make it very difficult for President Bush to justify any attack on Iran, if and when it should be decided to strike at its nuclear installations.
During the discrete visit, Israeli intelligence shared documents pertaining to developments in Iran’s military nuclear capabilities with American intelligence officials. The documents show the facts and timetables that appear in the American report are inaccurate. High-ranking Israeli security officials said that the delegation was the guest of the IDF General Staff’s Intelligence Branch. The sources said that the data presented to the delegation was not in the possession of the American intelligence authorities before the visit.
At the end of this month, a formal meeting will be held in Israel (the Fourth since last year) as part of the strategic dialogue between Israel and the United States. As part of this meeting, the Americans will present their impressions of the material that Israel gave them on the Iranian topic.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008