Most commentators have said that Günter Grass’s poem about Israel and nuclear weapons was an attempt to ward off a war with Iran”—but the reality is that Israel, and its subject nation, the US, already started the war against Iran many years ago.
In 2005, the US’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) stared training for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K, at the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site.
The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the 1970s, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens.
It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.
In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told a reporter that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad.
The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations.
Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
The training ended sometime before President Obama took office, the former official said. In a separate interview, a retired four-star general, who has advised the Bush and Obama Administrations on national-security issues, said that he had been privately briefed in 2005 about the training of Iranians associated with the M.E.K. in Nevada by an American involved in the program.
They got “the standard training,” he said, “in commo, crypto [cryptography], small-unit tactics, and weaponry—that went on for six months,” the retired general said. “They were kept in little pods.”
He also was told, he said, that the men doing the training were from JSOC, which, by 2005, had become a major instrument in the Bush Administration’s global war on terror. “The JSOC trainers were not front-line guys who had been in the field, but second- and third-tier guys—trainers and the like—and they started going off the reservation. ‘If we’re going to teach you tactics, let me show you some really sexy stuff…’ ”
Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated since 2007. M.E.K. spokesmen have denied any involvement in the killings, but NBC News quoted two senior Obama Administration officials as confirming that the attacks were carried out by M.E.K. units that were financed and trained by Mossad, the Israeli secret service.
A former senior intelligence official, interviewed by the New Yorker Magazine, said that the Israelis were working with the M.E.K., adding that the operations benefitted from American intelligence.
He said that the targets were not “Einsteins”; “The goal is to affect Iranian psychology and morale,” he said, and to “demoralize the whole system—nuclear delivery vehicles, nuclear enrichment facilities, power plants.”
Attacks have also been carried out on pipelines. He added that the operations are “primarily being done by M.E.K. through liaison with the Israelis, but the United States is now providing the intelligence.”
An adviser to the special-operations community told me that the links between the United States and M.E.K. activities inside Iran had been long-standing. “Everything being done inside Iran now is being done with surrogates,” he said.
Israel was also responsible for the Struxnet cyber attacks on the Iranian centrifuges.
Once again, it was “American” and Israeli co-operation which perfected the cyber warfare attack. According to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Israel’s Dimona plant in the Negev desert—where the Zionist state’s nuclear warheads are made—hs taken on a new, equally secret role, namely that where a “joint American and Israeli effort” to undermine Iran’s nuclear program is underway.
“Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.
“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”
Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.
In recent days, the retiring chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton separately announced that they believed Iran’s efforts had been set back by several years. Mrs. Clinton cited American-led sanctions, which have hurt Iran’s ability to buy components and do business around the world.
The project’s political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center.
President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy.
Now, open war appears almost certain follow, and the only thing likely to stop it would be for hundreds of thousands of voices to call on world leaders to heed Grass’ warning.