Foreign Policy journalist Mark Perry talks to +972 about his revelation of Mossad agents pretending to be CIA men while trying to recruit Iranian terrorists, explains why Israel and the U.S. are unlikely to fall out over the affair, and offers Israel a free tip.
I would not expect the Israeli government to confirm my report — it’s certainly not in their interest to do so. I would have been surprised if they had said “yes, this is absolutely true.” The story is as accurate as I could make it, and as well sourced as I could make it. It’s as true as the rising sun. Then too, people should realize that this is not the first false flag operation that Israel has conducted, as a published report by a colleague made clear in 2010.
My understanding is that a journalist in Israel has supposed that I wrote and published the story because I am “a known supporter of the Arab cause.” That’s an insulting slur — and one that I would not make against reporters here in Washington who regularly report on Israel. I am a supporter of the American cause. And what exactly is the Arab “cause?” To be friends with the US? To build stable and democratic societies? To educate their children and be at peace with their neighbors. If that is the “cause” then yes, I am for it.
Quite a few readers have questioned the coincidence of the story running just days after yet another assassination of an Iranian scientist. Is it a coincidence? How long have you been working on the story?
I know there is a great deal of skepticism about the timing of the story. And I know too that people will simply not believe it is a coincidence. In fact, it is. I thought two weeks ago that, after eighteen months of work, the story was in jeopardy of being released by another publication. And in truth, I did not decide to actually publish the story until the Friday before its appearance. And even then, at the last minute, I put the story on hold — to give a number of contacts of mine a chance to weigh in, and to give the U.S. and Israeli governments a chance to respond officially — or off the record. And I made it clear to officials here that I was willing to withdraw the story if there was reason to doubt its accuracy for any reason, or if in their estimation, it would harm my country. I received no response. The story appeared yesterday because that is when I, and Foreign Policy, felt comfortable with every one of its details.
The same Haaretz report speculated the revelation could endanger Israel-US ties in the same way the Pollard affair did, and that this is why the Mossad is as a policy opposed to “adventurous endangerment of its relationship to the American community.” Is this likely?
I am an historian — that is really my first career. I have studied and written extensively about the politics of the American and British high command in World War Two (Partners In Command is my book on George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower). During that alliance, key senior officers of both the U.S. and Great Britain held high level conferences to determine military strategy. During those conferences there was shouting, deep disagreement — in one case, nearly a fistfight. Allies disagree. Why wouldn’t the same be true now, between Israel and the U.S? No alliance is perfect, no country walks in lock step with another, and it would be naive to suppose it. There are problems between the U.S. and Israel, but that isn’t new. Nor should believe that the strategic relationship and deep friendship we have with Israel will change. My sense is that, despite the problems, there is a commitment on the part of the administration to make certain that, as with all alliances, a common purpose outweighs all disagreements. Frankly, if the Pollard incident didn’t end the U.S.-Israel relationship, then this won’t. My personal view is, and my advice to Israel, is — if you want to be welcome in America, don’t try to pull this kind of crap.
You say there is no evidence linking Jundallah to the assassination campaign. Is there any indication Israel is similarly using some other group, like the MEK? Was there any indication of what purpose the Jundallah recruits were used for?
My article was focused on a single story — that Mossad officers attempted to recruit Jundallah operatives under the guise of the American intelligence services. I stayed strictly focused on that. I have no idea who is responsible for the murder of Iranian scientists, I have no idea whether, at present, Israel is using Jundallah or MEK operatives to conduct these operations. Iran has plenty of enemies, and it could be any number of organizations — or perhaps the killings are simply an internal matter. In one way, I suppose, I don’t care, so long as my country is not responsible. Because if we are, then we are a state sponsor of terrorism, and the “war on terrorism” is a lie. I don’t think it is. I think the U.S. government, my country, has lots of problems. But joining with terrorist groups is not one of them.