After the US’ informers network in Iran had been quashed by the regime’s counterintelligence agencies, Israel filled the gap with reliable intelligence on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and its proxy militias gathered by its intact and wide-reaching operations.
But according to a NY Times report on Thursday (Israel’s Spy Agency Snubbed the U.S. Can Trust Be Restored?), after the election of President Joe Biden, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reduced the flow of intelligence sharing with the US because he mistrusted the Biden administration.
The Times noted that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has an advantage in his Thursday’s meeting with Biden because of the Americans’ complete dependence on Israel for information on Iran. Without Israel, all the US has in its arsenal is electronic eavesdropping, which doesn’t come close to having a robust in-country spy network like Israel’s.
According to the Times, Netanyahu’s mistrust led at least once to the humiliation of his American allies, when, back in April, Israel alerted the US only two hours ahead of its attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant. There was nothing the Americans could do with this information so close to the attack itself, certainly not to evaluate it and demand that Israel call it off.
The Times cited Israeli officials who said they had to play it close to the vest because the Biden administration had leaked information about Israeli operations – which US officials are denying. But in mid-March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had been systematically wrecking Iranian tankers that were smuggling oil from Iran to Syria in defiance of the Western sanctions. The WSJ cited at least 12 ships that were taken down by the Israelis. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi is convinced the leak did not come from Israel.
Other Israeli officials complained that the Biden administration doesn’t care about Israel’s concerns about a nuclear Iran, eager as it is to undo the damage former President Donald Trump had done to the Iran nuclear agreement.
Senior Biden administration officials feel betrayed by the Israelis, who they say had violated a decades-long relationship of trust between the two allies, which always including giving the Americans a chance to weigh Israeli operations from their global perspective and to offer their objections. The Times suggests CIA Director William Burns came to Israel recently mainly to share his grievances over the snub with Mossad chief David Barnea and PM Bennett. In March, when Burns called then-Mossad director Yossi Cohen to complain, Cohen blamed the late warning on operational constraints, saying Israel wasn’t sure until the last minute it was going ahead with the attack.
Turns out Burns didn’t buy it.