Report: Israel spied on US nuclear talks with Iran

The administration's discussions with Iran appear to be nearing an agreement, with Israeli officials resigned to the fact that the sides are about to strike what they call "a bad deal."

March 24, 2015 05:30
2 minute read.
White House

US President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, October 1, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Not only did Israel spy on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran, but it angered Obama administration officials by using the information gleaned from its espionage efforts to drum up opposition to a nuclear deal among US lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal is reporting on Tuesday.

The administration's discussions with Iran appear to be nearing an agreement, with Israeli officials resigned to the fact that the sides are about to strike what they call "a bad deal."

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According to the Journal, Israel spied on the talks as part of the Netanyahu administration's campaign to publicly build a case against the deal.

“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other," a senior US official familiar with the details told the newspaper. "It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy.”

While Israel and the US are close allies, they have been known to spy on one another, the most notorious instance being the imprisonment of US Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard.

According to The Wall Street Journal, US spy agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials who were sharing details that the Americans say could only have been learned from the secret negotiations with Iran.

Israel, for its part, denied that it spied on American negotiators, insisting that their efforts were aimed at Iranian officials.

Last month, the Obama administration accused Israeli officials of “selective sharing of information” and “cherry picking” in their public complaints over the Iran negotiations.

“Not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate depiction of the talks,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. And for that reason, “classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors.”

Those comments from the Obama administration came on the same day The New York Times ran a report alleging Washington had warned its European partners in the P5+1 not to be too open with Israel, “because whatever we say may be used in a selective way.” The P5+1 is made up of the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.

The Wall Street Journal story detailed how the espionage allegations are just the latest in a series of bones of contention which have not only damaged the Netanyahu government's relationship with the White House but also its standing with Democrats.

“People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official said. “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.”

Interestingly, the newspaper quoted an American official as saying that Israel "tops the list of countries that aggressively spy on the US," an assertion that Jerusalem flatly denied.

“These allegations are utterly false," an official in the Prime Minister's Office is quoted as saying by the Journal. "The state of 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.”

Israel, for its part, was angry at the Obama administration for failing to notify Jerusalem of its intention to launch talks with Iran back in 2012. According to the report, this stoked Israel's suspicion that Washington was keen to strike a deal with Iran irrespective of how detrimental it was to Israel's interests.

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