In a diplomatic cable from Tel Aviv, dated April 6, 2005 (05TELAVIV2125_a), Israeli officials professed that they had ‘no evidence’ of Saddam Hussein developing WMDs, and that the Iraqi regime ‘would never support al-Qaeda’ or ‘jihad’.
Israel, generally considered to be one of the US’ closest military allies in the ‘war against terror’, therefore secretly maintained an intelligence-rooted position that directly contradicted the stated assertions of the War in Iraq – that Hussein harbored members of Al-Qaedi and was in possession of WMDs.
Israel played a key part in the decision to invade Iraq, as is noted in the essay ‘The Israel Lobby‘ by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Despite misinformation being dispensed by US regarding Al-Qaeda and WMDs, that was clearly at odds with what the Israeli diplomatic community believed at the time, Israel were reportedly even averse to the idea of the Security Council being allowed a verdict before war was declared:
Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical. Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure. According to Philip Zelikow, a former member of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, and now a counsellor to Condoleezza Rice, the “real threat” from Iraq was not a threat to the United States.
The “unstated threat” was the “threat against Israel”, Zelikow told an audience at the University of Virginia in September 2002. “The American government,” he added, “doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.”
On 16 August 2002, 11 days before Dick Cheney kicked off the campaign for war with a hardline speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Washington Post reported that “Israel is urging US officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein”. By this point, according to Sharon, strategic co-ordination between Israel and the US had reached “unprecedented dimensions”, and Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq’s WMD programmes.
As one retired Israeli general later put it, “Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq’s non-conventional capabilities.”
Israeli leaders were deeply distressed when Bush decided to seek Security Council authorisation for war, and even more worried when Saddam agreed to let UN inspectors back in. “The campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must,” Shimon Peres told reporters in September 2002. “Inspections and inspectors are good for decent people, but dishonest people can overcome easily inspections and inspectors.”
At the same time, Ehud Barak wrote a New York Times op-ed warning that “the greatest risk now lies in inaction”. His predecessor as prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, published a similar piece in the Wall Street Journal, entitled: “The Case for Toppling Saddam”. “Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do,” he declared. “I believe I speak for the overwhelming majority of Israelis in supporting a pre-emptive strike against Saddam’s regime.” Or as Ha’aretz reported in February 2003, “the military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq”.
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