A new article by the Wall Street Journal states that Israel spied on Iran’s nuclear talks with the United States — and used the information to undermine the Obama administration’s position with the GOP-led Congress.
The White House found out about the operation, the Journal reports, when U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted messages among Israeli officials containing details that U.S. officials believed could have come only from the top-secret negotiations. The WSJ claims it spoke with “senior White House officials” about the incident.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” a senior U.S. official told the WSJ.
U.S. officials say that classified information – such as the number of centrifuges that Iran might be able to keep operating as part of a final accord – were then shared with lawmakers in a concerted effort to derail the talks.
Israeli officials deny that and told the Journal that they did not spy directly on American negotiators.
“They say they got their information through other means, such as surveillance of Iran’s leaders or via one of the U.S.’s negotiating partners, such as the French,” states Politico.
The report shows the growing rift between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has deepened in the wake of Netanyahu’s reelection last week.
“People feel personally sold out,” a senior White House official told the WSJ. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful, because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.”
A senior official in Netanyahu’s office fired back, calling the allegations “utterly false” in an interview with CNN, adding that “Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
The Wall Street Journal: “Using levers of political influence unique to Israel, Messrs. Netanyahu and Dermer (the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.) calculated that a lobbying campaign in Congress before an announcement was made would improve the chances of killing or reshaping any deal.”