Published by The Freeman Center

The Maccabean Online

Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."

By: Joseph Puder

Efraim Halevy, former Mossad chief, Israel’s CIA and FBI combined and currently the head of the Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at the Hebrew University was in Philadelphia as the guest of the Middle East Forum. His reason for being in the U.S. was to promote his new book, Man in the Shadows: Inside the Middle East Crisis with a Man Who Led the Mossad. Introducing Halevy, Middle East Forum chairman Bob Guzzardi intimated to the audience of over 100 that “Halevy is one of the few people that could shed a light on the issues most relevant to Americans at this time-Iran and Iraq.”
Halevy’s significant statement last Monday afternoon was that “those who provided President Bush with intelligence briefings on WMD in Iraq did their job.” He went on to explain that from his vantage point of an Intelligence officer, it is imperative “to provide the national leader with the best possible estimate of a situation.” On that basis Halevy pointed out, “the intelligence President Bush received was proper and correct” and it therefore stands to reason that President Bush acted appropriately.

Halevy said that Intelligence services are charged with providing the president with their best estimates based on past history and future intentions. On that basis, the U.S. Intelligence community made the right assessment of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Saddam sought to begin a nuclear program that would lead to nuclear weapons already in 1980. Jacque Chirac, then the Prime Minister of France provided him with a nuclear reactor built near Baghdad, called Osirak.

At the time, Saddam was the “darling” of the Washington establishment, and when Israel’s daring raid in 1981 destroyed the Osirak facility, Israel was widely condemned. It retrospect it was Israel’s action that prevented Saddam from developing nuclear weapons that would have compromised the U.S. and coalition forces liberation of Kuwait in 1991, and later, the removal of Saddam in 2003.

In the 1980’s Saddam’s agents were scouring throughout Europe and elsewhere in search of WMD’s, including the “long Canon” that Israel sabotaged. Saddam sought to acquire such weapons against Iran. The Iran-Iraq war was on, and lasted from 1980-1988 at the cost of more than a million Iraqis and Iranians lives. Iran and Iraq sacrificed their young men on the alter of religious belief (Sunni versus Shiite Islam), power and land factors (Shaat al-Arab). In fact, Saddam used WMD (deadly gas) on both the Iranians and his own Kurdish population in Northern Iraq.

Following the U.S. and coalition forces liberation of Kuwait and incursion into Iraq, Saddam, like the Iranians today, vowed not to be caught “with his pants down.” He was actively building a nuclear program. High-ranking Iraqi defectors informed U.S. officials of Saddam’s WMD ambitions and plans. It was therefore reasonable for the American intelligence services to make the assumption that Iraq had WMD.

Charging, “Modern leopards do change their spots” Halevy argued that in 1980 Saddam was a hero for the U.S. since he was fighting the Khomeini’s Shiite revolution in Iran.

Until he invaded Kuwait, Saddam received military aid and the best intelligence including satellite maps from the U.S. America saw in Saddam’s Iraq a bulwark against the dangerous anti-American and anti-Western mullahs in Teheran.

It was the U.S. politicians in late 1980’s and 1990’s who brushed off Saddam’s WMD ambitions. In 2000 and beyond, Saddam in cooperation with the French and the Russian in particular was defying the UN imposed embargo. He also boasted of having WMD as a way to deter the U.S. and its allies from invading or bombing Iraq again.

This reporter would argue that “the leopard that changed it spots” is President George W. Bush, who unlike his predecessors began to understand Saddam’s threat to the U.S. Saddam never really changed his “leopard spots,” he only served American interests while they coincided with his own.

Halevy brought another example of “changing spots” citing Osama Bin Laden. In the 1980’s Osama fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and was supported by the U.S. After the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in the late 1980’s, Osama turned against the U.S.

In Osama’s case much like with Saddam, U.S. policymakers engaged in wishful thinking about the Islamists fighting the Russians. Official Washington thought that as long as they are anti-Russians, they must be on our side. When the Cold War was over, they were clearly against us, in fact, they hated the U.S. and the West all along. In the relationship with Osama and his ilk, it was more of Osama using the U.S. for his ends then the opposite…

Another “Leopard changing its spots” in Halevy’s estimation is the current Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority. However nasty and hateful the Hamas is as a terrorist organization, according to Halevy, “Hamas’ agenda is to improve the Palestinians quality of life” and that he argued, “they will not be able to accomplish without cooperation with Israel.”

In answering a question on WMD, Halevy concluded, “ The U.S. Intelligence Community had it right.”