Spies Against Armageddon

Title:                  Spies Against Armageddon

Author:                Dan Raviv

Raviv, Dan (2012) and Yossi Melmar. Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars. Sea Cliff, NY: Levant Books

LCCN:    2013409098

UB271.I8 M4513 2012


Date Updated:  November 13, 2015

This book is available for free download.

A review by Kimberly Dozier.[1]

A new [2012] book claims Israel’s spy agency dispatched assassins into Iran, as part of a campaign to sabotage the country’s disputed nuclear program.

Israeli operatives have killed at least four Iranian nuclear scientists, including targeting them with operatives on motorcycles, an assassination technique used by the Israeli spy service, the Mossad, according to authors Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman in their book to be published July 9, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.

The Mossad agents “excel at accurate shooting at any speed and staying steady to shoot and to place exquisitely shaped sticky bombs” and consider it their hallmark, Raviv said Friday during an interview with both authors.

The hits are part of a series of regular missions deep inside Iran, intended to keep Tehran from developing weapons and following through with threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map. U.S. officials have said in the past that they were not involved, and they don’t know who did it.

The U.S. and Israel accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran has long blamed the scientists’ killings on Israel, which has remained silent on the matter, but media reports speculated Israel had contracted killers to do the job.

“They don’t farm out a mission that is that sensitive,” so sensitive that Israel’s prime minister has to sign off on it personally, Raviv said. “They might use dissidents for assistance or logistics but not the hit itself. The methodology and training and use of motorcycles is all out of the Mossad playbook. They wouldn’t trust anybody else to do it.”

The Mossad operatives enter and exit Iran through a “multitude” of routes, using a series of safe houses once inside the country that predate the 1979 revolution, the authors said.

In Friday’s interview, co-author Melman said Israel believes the campaign successfully disrupted Iran’s nuclear program not only by taking out key scientists but also dissuading other up-and-coming scholars from joining the program.

Raviv is a CBS News correspondent, and Melman is a well-known Israeli reporter and commentator.

Israel has told the Obama administration that it expects American military power to “obliterate” Iran’s nuclear program, the authors said. If the U.S. does not act, Israel has threatened to attack Iran’s nuclear sites on its own. The U.S. prefers the carrot-and-stick approach of talks aimed at convincing Iran to stick to a peaceful nuclear regime, combined with increasingly harsh financial sanctions to punish Iran as it improves its current program.

The two nations have cooperated on the harassment campaign, including partnering on cyber programs like Stuxnet, malware credited with damaging the control panel on centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear plant.

Melman said the cyber campaign was an Israeli innovation, not an American one as recently reported. It was the brainchild of Israel’s military intelligence agency Aman and Unit 8200—Israel’s equivalent of the eavesdropping, code-breaking National Security Agency—and endorsed by the White House at Israel’s suggestion, he added.

Israel’s cyber warriors then worked with NSA to build malware. The program Flame was built first—a Trojan horse code designed to penetrate the Iranian nuclear sites and “suck information about the (uranium-enriching) centrifuges and how they operate,” Melman said. Once the Israeli and U.S. cyber experts got that information, they were able to build Stuxnet.

Reviewed by Hayden Peake[2]

CBS journalist Dan Raviv and Israeli journalist Yossi Melman published their first book on Israeli intelligence, Imperfect Spies[3], in 1989 in the United Kingdom.” A revised version, Every Spy A Prince[4], appeared in the United States in 1990. Spies Against Armageddon is an update of both, with some excisions and much new material. The book treats the three principal agencies—Mossad, Shin Bet, and Aman (military intelligence)—as seen through the eyes of their directors. The Lakam, or the Science Liaison Bureau, the agency that recruited Jonathan Pollard the authors note, has been disbanded, although they state that another unnamed group—responsible for “Israeli’s deterrent capability”—has taken its place. (p. x) Two other agencies have been added to Raviv’s treatment: Malab—Security of Defense Information—and Nativ, which is responsible for Jewish immigration.

Spies Against Armageddon begins with an account of how Israel has dealt with its most important external threat, Iran. The story focuses on the changes Mossad Director Meir Dagan made during his tenure (2002-2010) and addresses the mostly covert political, diplomatic, economic, and psychological operations the Israelis have conducted. (pp. 4ff.) According to the authors, Israel employed Iranian Jews, who had fled to Israel after the 1979 revolution, to undertake risky missions in Iran. (p. 14)

The balance of the book covers Israeli intelligence operations from the early 1950s to the present. Some will be familiar, for example, the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the aftermath of the killings of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, battles with the PLO, and the Pollard affair. Many are new to this book. Take for example, the honey trap run in 1954 against Avner Israel, an immigrant to Israel from Bulgaria who had decided to work for Egypt. (pp. 21-23) Another new case is the recruitment of Otto Skorzeny while he was assigned to train Nasser’s bodyguards. (pp. 92-93) The assassination of various terrorists receives considerable attention. One operation employed “death by chocolates,” a case in which Wadi Haddad’s favorite chocolates were poisoned, leading gradually to his death. (p. 220) The Dubai operation (pp. 302-307) in which the Israelis used false passports while following their target created an international incident. The failed attempt to kill Khaleid Meshaal in Jordan (p. 293) is also included.

There is also an account of raids in 1981 on Osirak (the Iraqi nuclear facility) (pp. 223-24) and in 2007 on a Syrian nuclear reactor. {pp. 316-18) The unusual case of double agent Ashraf Marwan, Nasser’s son-in-law, is of interest since the Egyptians say he was really their mole in Mossad. (pp. 165-68) One recent story may have solved a mystery. According to the authors, the Israeli ambassador in Washington called a colleague on an open phone and mentioned MEGA—the Israeli name for the United States. The call was intercepted by NSA and passed to the FBI, which concluded MEGA was an Israeli agent. The hunt was on. A number of Jewish Americans associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AlPAC) were surveilled, and several were indicted on unrelated charges before the FBI learned the meaning of MEGA. (pp. 244-45) British author Gordon Thomas heard a different version of the story and wrote in Gideon’s Spies[5], that the Israelis had an agent code-named MEGA in the White House. Thomas still insists he is correct. Unfortunately, neither book cites a source.

In the end, Spies Against Armageddon returns to the topic of the Iranian nuclear threat, one that is now complicated by new political uncertainties in the Middle East and by the emergence of cyberspace as a new theater of war. Relying mainly on interviews, many unattributed, the authors present a balanced, often exciting view of Israeli intelligence.

[1] Kimberly Dozier is an AP Intelligence Writer. “Book: Israeli spies behind Iran assassinations,”(July 8, 2012) at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/book-israeli-spies-behind-iran-assassinations. Dozier can be followed on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KimberlyDozier

[2] Peake, Hayden B. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 1, Spring/Summer 2013, pp. 118-119). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at http://www.cia.gov

[3] Raviv, Dan (1989) and Yossi Melman. The Imperfect Spies: The History of Israeli Intelligence. London: Sidgwick and Jackson [OCLC: 59793807]

[4] Raviv, Dan(1990) and Yossi Melman. Every Spy A Prince: The Complete History of Israel’s Intelligence Community. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

[5] Thomas, Gordon (2009). Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad (5th ed.). New York: St. Martin’s Griffin


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