How Israeli Intelligence Provided the U.S with Vital Help During the Cold War

It’s well known today that Israeli and U.S. intelligence agencies often cooperate closely, and that Jerusalem routinely provides Washington with important and hard-to-obtain information. Less well known is that this cooperation dates back to the 1950s. It was Israel, for instance, that obtained a copy of Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 “secret speech” to Communist party leaders, denouncing Stalin. Israel also, on numerous occasions, captured advanced Soviet weaponry from its Arab enemies, which it then gave to the U.S., helping the latter stay abreast of Moscow’s technology and its vulnerabilities. And that’s not all, as Raphael Ofek writes:

During the cold war, U.S. intelligence had difficulty collecting information from behind the Iron Curtain, instead concentrating on technical means of collection, especially aerial photography: first by U-2 planes, then by satellites. Thus, particularly in domains of a clearly technological nature such as the Soviet nuclear threat, it was easy to err through over- or underestimation. [By recruiting retired members of the Soviet defense establishment], the Israeli intelligence community succeeded, in the latter half of the 1970s and the early 1980s, to provide its American counterpart with highly valuable, original information on the Soviet strategic-missile array as it existed at the end of the 1960s.

Based on the information that Israel provided, one could construct a detailed and quite accurate picture of the structure and dispersal of at least some of the Soviet army’s strategic-missile brigades. . . . Some of the intelligence information could be verified with aerial photographs. But it also included details, as well as rumors, that were verified only later. . . .

The CIA expressed its gratitude to the Israeli intelligence community, noting that the information was “unique” and had enabled the agency to adjust its intelligence overestimation on the issue in question. According to a senior CIA official, the information obtained from Israel indicated that Soviet strategic-missile technology was inferior to what the CIA had [previously] believed. . . . [This] Israeli information made a particularly important contribution to America’s ability to defend itself against a Soviet nuclear strike.

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More about: Cold War, Intelligence, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Soviet Union, US-Israel relations

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war