The Corner

National Security & Defense

Don’t Be Shocked that Israel Spied on the Iran Nuclear Talks

In what was obviously a targeted press leak by the Obama administration, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Israel spied on the Iran nuclear talks and used the intelligence it gathered to lobby the U.S. Congress against them.

According to the Journal article, Obama officials knew about Israeli spying on the nuclear talks for over a year. This spying reportedly consisted of eavesdropping and acquiring information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants, and diplomatic contacts in Europe, according to the Journal’s sources. Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they acquired their information through other means.

Obama officials and the Democratic members of Congress who probably helped leak this story expressed outrage over Israel’s spying on the nuclear talks. One official told the Journal that “people feel personally sold out.”

Give me a break. Israel and the United States spy on each other constantly. Ironically, according to the story, the Obama administration found out about Israel’s spying on the talks from American spying on Israel.

It’s pretty outrageous that Israel had to resort to spying to discover details of the nuclear talks that the Obama administration was withholding from both Israeli officials and the U.S. Congress.

Why did this story come out now? The reason is obvious. Obama officials know the Iran talks are in trouble and leaked the Israeli-spying story to change the subject. There is growing bipartisan opposition to the huge concessions made by the United States in the negotiations. Many members of Congress believe a final deal with Iran will be a weak, short duration agreement that will legitimize Iran’s nuclear program and increase tensions in the Middle East. Moreover, according to recent press report, Iran is pushing for more concessions while France is trying to toughen a final deal.

According to article, President Obama decided to keep Prime Minister Netanyahu in the dark about the Iran nuclear talks because he was concerned about leaks. This was an unacceptable way to treat one of our closest allies on negotiations with profound implications for its security. Now that we know President Obama stiffed Netanyahu by refusing to keep him informed about the Iran talks, U.S. officials should stop whining about Netanyahu breaking protocol by addressing Congress and lobbying it against a nuclear agreement with Iran.

What worries me most about this clumsy Obama-administration attack on Netanyahu is how it will feed growing anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments from the left in the United States, especially from the far left. The administration should be standing behind Israel, not generating opposition to it among its radical supporters by leaking stories like this.

Israeli spying on the nuclear talks was nothing unusual. And although Israel’s reported decision to use the intelligence it gathered from this spying to lobby Congress was unexpected, I believe this decision was justified given the way the Israeli government was treated by the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s fear that the nuclear talks were on track to produce an agreement that would seriously endanger Israeli and regional security.

As a former CIA analyst, I say congratulations and thank you to the Mossad for its outstanding work to help stop the Obama administration’s reckless nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

— Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, is Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs for the Center for Security Policy. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is the editor of the 2020 book Defending against Biothreats.


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