Israel in 2012 considered “leaking” that it would use a military base in Saudi Arabia as a springboard to launch an airstrike against Iran as part of its efforts to counter the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, according to the latest batch of leaked emails released by WikiLeaks on Saturday.
A July 2012 correspondence between senior advisers and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton cited Israeli sources saying that while Israel was unprepared for a full-scale war with Iran, rumors of an IDF strike could “persuade the world they mean business.”
“At present, considering that Israel is not prepared for an all-out war with Iran, they may well continue to threaten action, giving the impression they are serious about pursuing aggressive Iranian anti-nuclear efforts,” foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan wrote in a July 24 email.
“One way to do that is to update weapon systems; secure an air base in Saudi Arabia that would suggest a staging ground for an eventual attack, then ‘leak’ the word to the media that their [sic] are eminent [sic] plans to carry out a bombing raid and do everything possible to persuade the world they mean business,” the unnamed Israeli source was quoted as saying.
The email also cited a number of other European and Turkish security and intelligence sources who expressed concern that any Israeli military action against Iran would instantly ignite an all out war in the Middle East, including extensive retaliation against the Jewish state from its Arab neighbors.
Senior Turkish military commanders advised that a regional war would begin “before the first Israel air-strike sortie has returned to base,” and estimated that Hezbollah fighters in Syria and Lebanon had access to upwards of 200,000 surface-to-surface rockets and missiles.
“Their [Turkish] military analysts also believe that an assault from such a force would overwhelm Israel’s defenses,” the military sources were quoted as saying in the email.
The transcript showed that Western European intelligence services were also concerned over a potential Israeli strike, and had warned their respective heads of state that in such an event, Israel would be scapegoated for the fallout and would be the target of thousands of missiles and rockets launched from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip.
“Such an attack may lead to further deterioration in the world economy, which would in turn be blamed on Israel,” European leaders were told in intelligence reports by their respective agencies, according to the email.
European intelligence sources also said the international economic sanctions levied against Iran over its nuclear program were “truly hurting the Iranian economy” and had begun to foster hostility towards the ruling party, led at the time by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranian sources advised US officials that an IDF strike on Iran would undermine the growing discontent towards the Iranian leadership and would serve to unite the public against Israel, the US and Western Europe.
In this regard, Sullivan’s email said that European security official “regularly” cited the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was quoted as saying that “Iran in particular is susceptible to economic pressure. The oil-exporting Islamic republic is virtually a single-crop economy, and imposition of a tight blockade against Iranian oil sales will undoubtedly induce in Tehran a prompt revaluation of the utility of even indirect terrorist tactics.”
European officials were “staying in close contact with their Israeli counterparts as they attempt to manipulate events while avoiding a general conflict at this time,” Sullivan said of efforts to stave off an Israeli attack.
The latest cache of Clinton’s emails also revealed transcripts of several paid speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs in 2013, in which the Democratic presidential nominee said the US should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities it inched too closely to developing a nuclear weapon, while asserting that Israel did not posses the military capability to stop Tehran alone.
Speaking five months before the interim agreement was reached that set the framework for the nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers two years later, Clinton said that if Tehran raced toward the bomb, the US must “up the pain,” but without “boots on the ground.”
“We have to bomb the facilities. They act as though there would be no consequences either predicted or unpredicted,” the then-secretary of state said. “Of course there would be, and you already are dealing with a regime that is the principal funder and supplier of terrorism in the world today.”
Later at the same event, Clinton indicated Israel did not have the strength to strike the Iranian nuclear facilities and successfully set back its activities.
“The Israelis, as you know, have looked at this very closely for a number of years. The Israelis’ estimate is even if we set their program back for just a couple of years it’s worth doing and whatever their reaction might be is absorbable,” she said. “That has been up until this recent government, the prior government, their position. But they couldn’t do much damage themselves.”
The latest trove of Clinton’s leaked emails released by Wikileaks also revealed Israel’s approach to the unfolding Syrian civil war, and its concerns of a shift in leadership in Damascus.
In the 2012 message from Sullivan, senior Israeli military and intelligence officials said Netanyahu was concerned that violence in neighboring Syria would lead to President Bashar Assad’s ouster and replacement with a radical Islamist leader.
“Israeli leaders are now drawing up contingency plans to deal with a regional structure where the new revolutionary regimes that take over the various countries will be controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly more problematic groups such as al-Qaeda, which doesn’t bode well for the Israelis,” the source was quoted as saying.
The leaked transcripts of Clinton’s speeches and emails between staffers was released Saturday by WikiLeaks as part of a trove of hacked emails from her campaign manager John Podesta’s account.
The release is now the latest bid by the group to inject itself into this year’s presidential campaign.
US officials have accused WikiLeaks of working with Russian operatives to undermine Clinton’s candidacy and boost her opponent Donald Trump. So far the group has unveiled 11,000 hacked emails and purports to release 50,000 more before the November 8 election.
The Clinton campaign has neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of the transcripts of her high-priced Wall Street speeches. They have also not challenged any of the emails that the group has already made public.
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.