'Commandos nearly exposed Sept. 6 Syria strike'

Author Ronen Bergman recounts Sept. 6 strike details, says Mossad believes Bush will hit Iran.

commando tyre 298 idf (photo credit: IDF)
commando tyre 298 idf
(photo credit: IDF)
Aware that some members of both the American and the Israel intelligence community were not entirely convinced that President Bashar Assad was building a nuclear facility in the summer of 2007, Israel in mid-August sent 12 members of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit into Syria in two helicopters to collect soil samples outside the nuclear site. But the commandos' mission was almost exposed when a Syrian patrol drove past the landing site where the helicopters were parked. This is one of the dramatic revelations contained in a new book by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman that is being published next week in the US. The daring mission to Syria was a success, Bergman writes. "The results provided clear-cut proof of the joint nuclear project." The following month, the Israel Air Force destroyed the facility. Also in the book, The Secret War with Iran, Bergman claims that US Vice President Richard Cheney contacted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the release of the controversial US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program late last year to tell him that the US had "not discarded" the possibility "of an American military operation against Iranian nuclear targets." Bergman writes that the Mossad's assessment, as of May this year, is that President George W. Bush, "out of religious and ideological motives, will order a strike." Elsewhere in the book, Bergman provides details of a familiar charge that France deliberately chose not to arrest Hizbullah terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh when he passed through Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport in the mid-1980s, because it feared that stopping him would prompt further terrorism against its interests. Mughniyeh, who in 1983 had orchestrated simultaneous truck bombings against French paratroopers and the US Marine barracks in Beirut, in which 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines were killed, was a prime target for Western intelligence agencies at the time - and, indeed, for the next 20 years. Indicted by Argentina over the 1992 and 1994 Israel embassy and Jewish community office bombings and regarded as the brains behind Hizbullah's strategy in the Second Lebanon War, Mughniyeh was finally killed in Damascus last February. Nobody has taken responsibility for his death. Israel is currently warning businessmen overseas to guard against Hizbullah attempts to avenge his death by carrying out kidnappings; at least two such attempts are said to have recently been foiled. According to Bergman, Mughniyeh was traveling from Lebanon to Sudan, to meet with Iranian intelligence officials and mujahideen veterans from Afghanistan, and made a stopover at Charles de Gaulle. "The CIA had supplied the French with details of the fake passport Mughniyeh was using," Bergman writes. "Nevertheless, and despite a positive identification made by the Americans at the airport, the French never detained him, claiming 'that he had managed to slip away.'" US intelligence "never credited this excuse for a moment," Bergman continues, "believing that the French had let him get away on purpose, for fear of the fate of French hostages in Beirut." He also quotes the IDF's former Military Intelligence officer David Barkai, who was in charge of the "Mughniyeh file," as saying: "The French were the champions at this kind of thing. After [Hizbullah] snatched some Frenchmen in Lebanon, the French Foreign Ministry bought peace through quiet agreements with Hizbullah. I know of at least two cases where they closed their eyes to blatant terrorist activity, just so that their interests would not be harmed." In further sections of the book relating to Mughniyeh, Hizbullah and Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, Bergman claims that the Hizbullah terror chief served as "a major connection point" between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida and Iran, and as a source of inspiration for bin Laden, whose attacks he helped facilitate. Bergman describes a pivotal meeting the two men held in Khartoum, at which the murderously experienced Mughniyeh described for the impressionable bin Laden "the enormous effect of the suicide attacks against the Americans and the French in the early 1980s in Lebanon." In the wake of this meeting, Bergman writes, basing his account on a witness's testimony to the FBI, "Hizbullah supplied al-Qaida with explosives instruction, and Iran used Hizbullah to provide bin Laden with bombs. Much of the al-Qaida training was carried out in camps in Iran." Bergman's new book is an expanded and updated English version of last year's Hebrew bestseller The Point of No Return. The English book, published by Free Press, also repeats the Hebrew volume's claim - which is disputed by other sources - that Russian S-300 missiles have already been supplied to Iran and are deployed to help protect various Iranian nuclear facilities.