TEL AVIV – Amid reports that President Donald Trump allegedly disclosed classified intelligence provided by Israel during a White House meeting last week with Russian officials, it may be instructive to recall that the Obama administration was repeatedly accused of deliberately leaking Israeli military secrets that may have damaged Israel’s defense capabilities.
In 2012, Israel suspected the Obama administration leaked information to prevent the Jewish state from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. The leak appeared in a Foreign Policy magazine article quoting anonymous U.S. officials that revealed Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, secretly provided Israel with airbases from which the Israeli military could strike Iran.
“The Israelis have bought an airfield,” one senior Obama administration official was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying, “and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”
The White House denied it was behind the leak.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton did not believe the White House denials: “Clearly, this is an administration-orchestrated leak. … It’s just unprecedented to reveal this kind of information about one of your own allies.”
Ron Ben-Yishai, the defense analyst for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper, characterized the U.S. leaks as a “targeted assassination campaign.”
Ben-Yishai charged the Obama White House with attempting to “eliminate potential operational options available to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and the State of Israel.”
“In recent weeks the administration shifted from persuasion efforts vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel’s public opinion to a practical, targeted assassination of potential Israeli operations in Iran,” Ben-Yishai opined. “The campaign’s aims are fully operational: To make it more difficult for Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF to carry out a strike, and what’s even graver, to erode the IDF’s capacity to launch such a strike with minimal casualties.”
In April 2012, NBC News cited U.S. officials who claimed that an Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, also known by the acronym MEK, was behind assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. The MEK strongly denied the charge. The NBC report further cited quotes from an Iranian official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, claiming without offering proof that Israel had worked with the MEK. In a background press briefing in September 2012, a State Department official denied the U.S. alleged the MEK was involved in assassinations of Iranian scientists.
That same month, New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh cited a “former senior intelligence official” claiming that Israel was working with the MEK.
Meanwhile, in November 2013, Israeli officials were reportedly furious at the Obama White House for confirming the Israeli Air Force was behind a strike on a Syrian military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia. Israeli policy is not to confirm strikes carried out beyond its borders.
Roni Daniel, a respected military analyst for Israel’s Channel 2, warned that the Obama administration’s announcement could prompt Syrian retaliation against the Jewish state. He wrote that the Obama leaks “are pushing Assad closer to the point where he can’t swallow these attacks, and will respond.”
Citing numerous Israeli media dispatches on the matter, the Times of Israel reported at the time:
Israel’s Channel 10 TV on Friday night quoted Israeli officials branding the American leak as “scandalous.” For Israel’s ally to be acting in this way was “unthinkable,” the officials were quoted as saying.
A second TV report, on Israel’s Channel 2, said the leak “came directly from the White House,” and noted that “this is not the first time” that the administration has compromised Israel by leaking information on such Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian targets.
It said some previous leaks were believed to have come from the Pentagon, and that consideration had been given at one point to establishing a panel to investigate the sources.
Just before Obama left office, he pardoned James Cartwright, the retired Marine Corps four star general who was allegedly the source of a leak describing the Stuxnet virus, which infiltrated Iran’s nuclear program and reportedly destroyed thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges. The cyberweapon is widely acknowledged to have been built jointly by the U.S. and Israel. CONTINUE…