Mossad chief held secret talks in DC with top U.S. officials

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director David Petraeus appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill on Jan. 31, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence met yesterday for the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. And it was broadcast live. Haaretz reports “cursory comments” made by Senator Dianne Feinstein and General David Petraeus indicate they recently met with Mossad chief Tamir Pardo in Washington.

Mossad chief Tamir Pardo Photo: Moti Milrod

Haaretz has an enticing headline: Mossad chief holds secret U.S. meetings on Iran nuclear threat, Senate panel reveals.

The clandestine Washington visit was exposed during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which was participated by CIA Director David Petraeus, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate panel.

During the meeting, Feinstein asked Clapper whether or not Israel intended to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, with the top U.S. intelligence official answering that he would rather discuss the issue behind closed doors.

Feinstein then indicated that she had met Mossad chief Pardo earlier in the week in Washington, with Petraeus adding that he too met Pardo and cited what he called Israel’s growing concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.


ABC: The following are excerpts from National Director of Intelligence James Clapper’s prepared remarks as provided to ABC News.

On Iran: We Don’t Know If They’ll Go for The Bomb, ‘Concerned’ About Attack on U.S.

“We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. Iran nevertheless is expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, which can be used for either civil or weapons purposes.”

“Iran’s technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so. These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon, if it so chooses. We judge Iran would likely choose missile delivery as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon… Elite infighting has reached new levels, as the rift grows between Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad.”

There’s more nothing where that comes from.

Shorter Clapper: We don’t know what Iran will do but eventually they will have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons if they want to. So the issue is do they have the political will to make a nuclear weapon? Let’s just skip over the part about whether Iran would have the will to actually use a nuclear weapon and posit if they did use one, they’d probably decide to deliver it with a missile. If we attack them, they’ll attack us back. They have probably plotted an attack already.

That strikes me as a lot of if’s for a preemptive strike doesn’t it? Plus, there’s some stuff in there about the alleged assassination plot on the Saudi ambassador (recall the hokey story about the Mexican under cover agent working for the Iranians, which Jeffrey Goldberg claims to take seriously) indicating the Iranians are “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States”. Uh huh.

I’m reminded of b reviewing Isabel Kershner’s reporting, “NYT Introduces New False Propaganda Line,” at Moon of Alabama:

“Working to develop a weapons program”? What is that supposed to mean?

Since the NYT ombudsman has admonished the paper for being too casual with references to the non existing Iranian nuclear weapon program, Kersher can no longer refer to it directly.

Instead she now comes up with “is working to develop a weapons program.” This phrase has, to my best knowledge, never been used in any official language and I have never seen this accusation before. What is the factual base for Kershner’s assertion?

Well, it’s not the Worldwide Threat Assessment.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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31 Responses

  1. hass
    February 1, 2012, 12:56 pm

    According to the IAEA, even today 40 countries already have the “capability” to make nukes because it is inherent in developing a civilian nuclear program, and is perfectly legal under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Thus the characterization of the Iran threat as its mere “capability” to make nukes only highlights the fact that no one has any actual evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, and so instead we’re treated to allegations about hypothetical “threats” and Iranian “intentions to acquire capabilities” to make nukes which could just as easily be applied to 1 out of every 4 countries in the world.

    Sadly, our media then obfuscates any difference between having a nuclear weapons program versus having the “capability” to make nukes, by using terms such as “Iran going nuclear” in order to box-in our policy-makers into a false choice: either Iran must be sanctions/bombed, or else Iran will “go nuclear”. Thus, bombing Iran is always “on the table” but the range of alternative intermediate options — such as cooperating with Iran’s nuclear program as it operates under IAEA safeguards as do the nuclear programs of many other countries — is of course always “off the table”.

    In short, this conflict is not really about an actual nuclear threat from Iran. That’s just made up. Rather, this is about justifying and imposing regime change in Iran, by war if necessary, and the nuclear issue is just a convenient pretext and cover for that policy. The last thing the US and Israel want is for the nuclear dispute with Iran to be resolved peacefully while the Iranian government continues to be in power.

    • teta mother me
      February 1, 2012, 3:28 pm

      in the course of his campaign in Florida, Newt said, “Hugo Chavez says Venezuela is at war with the United States. I am prepared to believe him. He gave Ronald Reagan a book [??? what book was so offensive to Reagan, See Spot Run??] that ….. When I am your president, we will change Venezuela’s government. Not by military means, but Chavez will be gone.”

      In an earlier statement, Romney said something like, “I am the president the world needs at this time.”

      Do these guys think they get to call the shots for the whole world?

      Most of the forces stacked against Iran argue (wrongly) that Iran’s 2009 election was fraudulent, therefore Iran’s government is illegitimate.
      Do they think that for the United States or Israel to sashay into another country –whether Libya or Syria or Iran or Venezuela– and tell those people who will run their government, is somehow NOT illegitimate?

      • anonymouscomments
        February 8, 2012, 1:28 am

        they don’t think it is legitimate… they know it is illegitimate. they don’t give a flying f about legitimacy, and i don’t even know how legitimate our own gov is at times. we overthrew iran’s most legitimate gov ever to install a dictator. and we might overthrow their *fairly* legitimate gov they have now.

        do they *think* they get to call the shots for the whole world? sadly, i think they *DO* largely call the shots for the whole world, and literally decimate and invade any country that gets out of line. iran and venezuela just a matter of time…. not for lack of trying though.

        BTW, do you recall when the USG attempted to legitimize a military coup of chavez, that quickly got foiled? for a day we recognized the patently illegitimate military coup-'%C3%A9tat_attempt

        on the zionist angle of people calling shots, you reminded me of a quote from abe foxman, out of “defamation”, that gave me the chills-
        israeli minister- “so are you pressing in any way?” (re venezuela)
        abe foxman- “…it’s not for the camera, but there are other plans”

        with the ADL and AIPAC so close to power, and information clearly shared among all the elites, they must often be in the know (above board or below… seems to vary). so who is *calling* the shots? i think AIPAC gets to call some serious shots when it is an issue they want to weigh in on… how can they not? they clearly draft legislation, and get slavish support from most all in congress.

        might adelson or others be whispering to newt about a shot they want to call, right across the bow of venezuela? who knows… maybe…

    • Tuyzentfloot
      February 2, 2012, 4:29 am

      Sadly, our media then obfuscates any difference between having a nuclear weapons program versus having the “capability” to make nukes, by using terms such as “Iran going nuclear” in order to box-in our policy-makers into a false choice:

      I partly agree. There is both deception at work but also people are suffering from a limited range of boxes to put Iran in . Either Iran has a weapons program or it hasn’t.

      One thing to keep in mind with descriptions as “is working on a bomb” or “has a nuclear weapons program” is that is that we learn that definitions are like boxes while we only use them as funnels where input as the response to the question “is this in some way true, even if a bit stretched?” while on the output we work with the cliche interpretation.

      Example: If I tell you there are birds in your exquisite garden and I inquire if that doesn’t don’t bother you, your dismissive reply will be that it doesn’t bother you, only to complain later on that I should have mentioned they were ostriches. Because you assumed I was talking about relatively small flying birds, which are the prototype of the bird category. That’s normal thinking.

      In that way, saying that Iran has a nuclear weapons program is not completely wrong, but it is very misleading. Many countries have nuclear capability, but a country like Belgium is different from Iran. Belgium can say “It’s common knowledge that highly developed countries are nuclear capable. We have never investigated how long it would take us to make a bomb, but I’m sure we can do so fairly quickly”. A country like Iran is different. They do want nuclear capability as a deterrence, even if the civilian program would proceed without it. They need to investigate what it takes to be nuclear capable and I think they did that before 2002, when they still perceived Iraq as a potential nuclear threat(ironically, I think mainly because of trumped up charges from the US, a problem we also have now with Iran’s neighbors).

      So as long as your only two boxes(funnels) are “has” or “doesn’t have” a weapons program, Iran will end up in the first funnel. And then what they did in 2002 was ‘put it on hold’.

      Some will use the large funnels as means of deception, others just because it’s all they have. We need smaller and different boxes than “has a nuclear weapons program”. for instance:

      – passive nuclear capability: sufficient dual use technologies are in place and functional to make creation of nuclear weapons possible
      – verified nuclear capability : feasibility studies have been done, roadmaps exist, but no construction.
      – nuclear threshold capability : everything is set up to create a bomb in minimal time.
      – maintain the option: creating a bomb may be delayed infinitely but not denied.

      It is valuable to distinguish threshold capability from the other two(and I’ve seen very knowledgeable people who don’t), the option and verified capability, and this can be part of negotiations. As part of an agreement Iran can withhold from taking agreed upon steps that would bring them closer to the threshold. I suspect they can go along with that. It does make a difference because it increases the reaction time in the scenario that Iran would decide to withdraw from the NPT. So it does calm things down. Japan has an explicit threshold capability, and they work on being as close to the brink as possible – the build time has been brought down from 3 to 2 months.

      • hass
        February 2, 2012, 10:45 am

        Like I said, according to the IAEA, 40 other countries already have a “threshold” capacity to make nukes. So if there is a third box for “has threshhold capability” then Iran would be included in there along with 1/4th of the entire rest of the world. Since civilian and military nuclear programs are essentially the same (only difference is the degree of enrichment) then many countries would fit into the “has threshold capability to make nukes” box — but that’s just not the same as as “has a weapons program.”

        Iran has indeed repeatedly put forth a variety of offers to place additional limits on its nuclear program well beyond anything that other countries have agreed to or what the NPT legally requires of Iran. These offers have included opening the program to 50-50 participation with the US, and imposing stricter inspections than even what the “Additional Protocol” would require (even though many nuclear-developing countries refuse to even sign the Additional Protocol — Argentina, Brazil, Egypt amongst them) …. but the US has consistently ignored these offers (more recently, Iran has offered to cease enriching uranium to 20% which is used to power its medical reactor, which the US has prevented from being fueled, and to swap its uranium in a deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey, which the Obama administration killed at the last minute much to the surprise of the Turks and Brazilians.) Short of giving up its nuclear program (which is what the US demands) Iran has bent over backwards to suggest alternatives. Even multilateral enrichment, endorsed by US and international experts, was suggested – but ignored.

        The history of this conflict shows therefore quite clearly a pattern that the US has done everything it can to PREVENT a peaceful resolution to the nuclear standoff, by ignoring peaceful resolution opportunities, and by constantly moving goalposts and raising the bar to potential settlement opportunities. Why? Because as the Washington Post let accidentally slip, this is about justifying regime change in Iran, not about non-proliferation. The last thing the US wants is for the nuclear standoff to the resolved, thus depriving the US of a convenient pretext for regime change — just like how the US Neocons did not want the weapons inspectors in Iraq to do their jobs and spent a lot of time denigrating them instead.

  2. Dan Crowther
    February 1, 2012, 1:25 pm

    So, Petraeus is giving voice to Israeli “concerns” where he once spoke of “Israeli intransigence threatening American lives” ….. Hmm… a few months ago, my man Phil had a post about Walter Pincus at WaPO calling into question US Aid to Israel. I said that it was probably Petraeus or one of his henchmen in the MIC giving Pincus the OK to run such a story, because they were worried the Israeli’s might be getting a little too big for their britches – The CIA guys needed more time, and they especially wanted US troops out of Iraq before anything got out of hand……

    Here is an article from Ray McGovern from last October about “Petraeus’s CIA” in regards to Iran

    “What to Watch For:
    If Petraeus finds it useful politically to conjure up more “evidence” of nefarious Iranian behavior in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, Lebanon or Syria, he will. And if he claims to see signs of ominous Iranian intentions regarding nuclear weapons, watch out.”

    And away we go…….

    • Annie Robbins
      February 1, 2012, 1:33 pm

      well dan, i am not sure i would characterize patreaus as ‘giving voice to Israeli “concerns” ‘. it was reported as:

      Petraeus adding that he too met Pardo and cited what he called Israel’s growing concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

      so basically it reports he met with the head of mossad and said israel has a growing concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. i could have told you that. doesn’t meaning i am ‘giving voice’ to that concern. or does it? isn’t ‘giving voice’ ..voicing the concern?

      • Dan Crowther
        February 1, 2012, 1:59 pm

        When it’s David Petraeus saying that, yes, he is giving voice to those “concerns”about Iran’s undefined “nuclear ambitions” — Especially since he has characterized Israel as “intransigent” before (in regards to Palestinians)
        — aren’t the Israeli’s acting “intransigently” in their endeavor to provoke war? Apparently not, here they just have “concerns”…. Its the world wide threat assessment, and not only is Israel not discussed as a “threat,” our CIA director is meeting with his Israeli counterpart to discuss the latter’s “concerns” which are shared by the Panel he sat on, per Clappers statements.

  3. Tzombo
    February 1, 2012, 1:38 pm

    It’s all part of the whole freakshow that is intended to put pressure on Iran and on the rest of the world to treat Iran as if it is doing something that is somehow ‘wrong’. It’s one giant expanding bubble of nothing and it’s straining. Personally I am pretty convinced by now there will never be a US attack and certainly no Israeli attack. They still might stumble into the abyss though.

  4. lysias
    February 1, 2012, 1:53 pm

    After it became evident that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, didn’t Bush use some weasel words like “weapons of mass destruction programs” to describe what he claimed had been found?

    • Shingo
      February 1, 2012, 2:54 pm

      After it became evident that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, didn’t Bush use some weasel words like “weapons of mass destruction programs” to describe what he claimed had been found?

      And when that failed, they dialed it down another notch to “WMD program related activities”, which is what they now accusing Iran of doing.

      Of course, the Dielfer Report revealed that such activities included decommissioning the WMD program and relocating the weapons scientists to civilian programs.

    • teta mother me
      February 1, 2012, 3:33 pm

      lysias, yes, the expanded the field to include biochem. Netanyahu planted that seed in the minds of US congresscritters in the run up to the Iraq war. Bibi demanded — and got — money from US — that’s us — to vaccinate every Jewish Israeli (he asked for 6 m. doses, not enough for Jews AND Palestinians) against biochem attack in event US went to war with Iraq.

      In addition, according to Ron Suskind in “The Way of the World,” Cheney’s office planted “evidence” that Saddam had collaborated with AlQaeda, in order to substantiate Cheney’s argument that Iraq was involved with 9/11.

  5. yourstruly
    February 1, 2012, 1:58 pm

    if petreaus goes along with the israel-firsters crusade for an iran war, that’ll make him an israel firster too, and he’ll have to be hammered for this. our doing so will give the struggle a decided anti-military flavor, something that’ll surprise a public that believes the military can do no wrong. about time, though, that it learned the truth.

  6. American
    February 1, 2012, 3:04 pm

    “indicating the Iranians are “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States”. Uh huh.”

    Yea. What a nice little plant for a false flag operation by ‘someone’ to kick start a war.

    • stevieb
      February 2, 2012, 5:43 pm

      Exactly. People should keep talking about that very real possibility. Including assasination of American officials. These are very dangerous people. I hope most Mondoweisser’s in America are realizing the danger of voting for the war parties. That means Ron Paul too.

  7. Kathleen
    February 1, 2012, 3:32 pm

    Clapper also said that Iran is not enriching uranium beyond what they are legally able during a go around with Senator Olympia Snowe

  8. lysias
    February 1, 2012, 4:02 pm

    The Financial Times has been saying in editorials that Iran has violated the NPT with its nuclear activities. It hasn’t bothered to explain just how Iran has violated the treaty.

    • hass
      February 2, 2012, 10:55 am

      Because Iran has not in fact violated the NPT. The text of Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA is clear: the EXCLUSIVE purpose is to ensure the non-diversion of declared nuclear material to non-peaceful uses. Every single IAEA report has always said that Iran has allowed all the required inspections to conclude there has been no such diversion, thus Iran is in fact in full compliance with the NPT.

  9. seafoid
    February 1, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I have the feeling the Mossad is one of these elite organisations that is going to be found out to be run by incompetents, just like Lehman Bros and Silvio Berlusconi’s Italian Government. The Zeitgeist seems to have developed a habit of destroying reputations and the Israelis, God love them, seem to belive that Mossad is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  10. Kathleen
    February 1, 2012, 4:27 pm

    Wonder if Feinsteins family will profit somehow if the US joins in on an attack the way they did from the invasion of Iraq. Feinstein has huge conflicts of interest…she should not be the head of the Senate intelligence committee. Her Iraq conflicts of interest should have been put under a magnifying glass

  11. Opaleye
    February 1, 2012, 5:46 pm

    Well, for a “clandestine visit”, it seems that a lot of people are blabbing about it. Does that mean the usual “slap on a fake beard” routine failed?

    As for the “Worldwide Threat Assessment”. Why so modest in scope? Why not the intergalactic pan-dimensional multiple-universe threat assessment?

  12. Citizen
    February 1, 2012, 6:17 pm

    Driving to and from the nearest VA hospital on January 31st, last, the talk AM radio stations were bursting with hosts blaring it’s time to quit pussy footing around, we have to “stop Iran now!” They all used language such as hass’s “going nuclear,” never once mentioning the fact Iran has not done so, or even that it has the right to enrich for peaceful purposes. The key authority mentioned was John Bolton.

  13. Les
    February 1, 2012, 6:38 pm

    By acceding to the wishes of Israel at any and every occasion possible, the US considers itself the ally of Israel. Israel obviously does not consider itself to be the ally of the US.

  14. brenda
    February 2, 2012, 1:04 pm

    it’s like the run-up to the Iraq war all over again and that was only 9 years ago, so you’d think ordinarily intelligent people might still have that in mind. it’s not like it’s rocket science, it’s only a matter of memory. has our country succumbed to dementia or what?

    Below is one of the reader responses to a NYT op-ed:

    I love this little piece, I wish there was some way to get it into the water system —

    ” 19 other nations–all signatories like Iran to the NPT–are enriching uranium exactly as Iran is doing. Some, like Japan, have already declared that they intend to make nuclear weapons in the future if they need to. So why aren’t we going after these nations with threats, sanctions and plans for carpet bombing? The answer is clear: we are targeting Iran, and using this non-existent issue as an excuse. The reason: a nuclear threat is a plausible excuse for regime change–what the hawks and neocons are really after!

    “Americans need to wake up and understand that they are being flim-flammed in a huge way. We will wake up in the middle of a massive conflagration and realize that the ideologues did it again–got us into a gigantic foreign conflict that will tie us and the world up for decades over a non-existent threat. Fool me twice, shame on me. “

  15. Justice Please
    February 2, 2012, 6:27 pm

    “Mossad chief held secret talks in DC with top U.S. officials”

    So we’re negotiating with terrorists after all?

    • lysias
      March 1, 2012, 6:54 pm

      Speaking of dealing with terrorists, here’s news about the MEK terror organization from today’s Washington Post: US says it could take Iranian opposition group off terrorism list, if it cooperates with Iraq:

      WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday offered an Iranian opposition group a path to get off of a U.S. terrorism blacklist, a move that would end years of high-profile campaigning from the Mujahadin-e-Khalq and infuriate Iran.

      Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a House committee Wednesday that MEK’s cooperation in a relocation plan from its paramilitary base on the Iran-Iraq border “will be a key factor in any decision” on whether to take it off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. The United States will help ensure the safety and security of the camp’s residents as they are moved to another site inside Iraq, she said.

      Clinton’s guidance was the clearest indication that the U.S. is close to removing the MEK from the list. The State Department has been ordered by a federal court to re-evaluate the designation of the MEK, an obscure Iranian dissident group that carried out a series of bombings and assassinations against Iran’s clerical regime in the 1980s and fought alongside former President Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war.

      Nothing in that article about the recent revelation by unnamed U.S. officials that it is the MEK that has been carrying out assassination of scientists and the like in Iran on behalf of Israel. Doesn’t look like they’ve stopped being a terrorist organization.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 1, 2012, 8:16 pm

        the MEK already has a base of operations inside of iraq. big duh.

  16. Les
    March 1, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Did anyone in the media, once they found out about the secret meeting between the Mossad and Obama’s people, bother to ask what US committments were agreed to in support of Israel’s attack against Iran?

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