Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2022
“The real crime, one that represents a serious breach of the long-standing intelligence-sharing arrangements between the US and Israel, is that one of President Joe Biden’s senior officials has been willing to betray the trust of such a close ally.”
Nothing better illustrates the Biden administration’s deep-seated antipathy towards the State of Israel than the leaking of highly classified material about the alleged role Israeli intelligence played in the assassination of a top-ranking Iranian terrorist.
For decades, Israel and the US have enjoyed a unique intelligence-sharing relationship whereby the two countries share the most sensitive material on their respective intelligence, security and military operations.
But the deep-seated bond of trust that forms the bedrock of this vital relationship has been seriously compromised as a result of the Biden administration’s egregious decision to leak details of Israel’s alleged involvement in the killing of Colonel Sayad Khodayee, a senior commander in the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Khodayee, a 50-year-old officer in the IRGC’s Quds force, was killed earlier this month when two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire as he sat in a car outside his home.
He has subsequently been identified as the deputy head of Unit 840, which is tasked with conducting attacks against foreign targets, including against Israel. Western intelligence sources say Khodayee was directly responsible for attempted terrorist attacks against Israelis, European and American civilians as well as government officials from as far afield as Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.
Khodayee’s importance to the Quds Force was reflected in the fact that several senior commanders of the IRGC and Quds Force paid their respects at his funeral in Tehran.
The Israeli government, which has a long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying its involvement in overseas operations, declined to comment on the killing, which took place in Tehran on May 22.
Iran, however, was quick to blame Israel for carrying out the attack, with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi claiming “the hands of global arrogance” — a reference to Israel and the US — were responsible.
“I call on security officials to seriously investigate the crime and I have no doubt that revenge on criminals for the pure blood of this honourable martyr is inevitable,” he said.
IRGC spokesman Ramazan Sharif said the killing of Khodayee would strengthen its determination to “defend security, independence and national interests and to confront the enemies of the Iranian nation”.
Iran’s view that Israel was behind the shooting will have been strengthened, moreover, by the leaking of classified information by the Biden administration claiming Israel was responsible for the attack.
According to a detailed report into the killing in The New York Times, an administration official claims that Israel provided Washington with a top secret briefing that it was behind the killing.
Whether or not this report is true is almost academic. The real crime, one that represents a serious breach of the long-standing intelligence-sharing arrangements between the US and Israel, is that one of President Joe Biden’s senior officials has been willing to betray the trust of such a close ally.
The anger felt by Israel’s entire security establishment about the leak were reflected in comments made by Israeli Member of Knesset Ben Barak, the chair of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee who is also a former deputy head of Mossad. Speaking on Israel’s Radio 103 FM, Barak declared:
“We have very many close relationships and a lot of cooperation between us, which all depend on trust, and when it is violated in some way then it damages future cooperation.”
At a time when tensions are already running high between Iran and the West over the stalled nuclear talks, there are quite justifiable concerns in Israel that the leak will prompt Iran to exact revenge by attacking Israeli targets, even if it later transpires that Israel was not responsible for the assassination.
The timing of the leak also indicates an underlying willingness on the part of the Biden administration to undermine Israel when, in public, the White House is seeking to portray itself as an ally of Israel, as indicated by its recent seeming decision not to remove the IRGC from the US list of designated terrorist organisations.
As for motivation, it is unclear if the leak was deliberate, to harm Israel, or from not fully appreciating the jeopardy it could potentially cause Israel, an act which would reflect the Biden administration’s profound lack of understanding as to what is at stake with the entire Iran issue.
Israel had fiercely resisted Iran’s demand, made during the nuclear talks, that removing the IRGC from the terrorist list was a pre-condition of agreeing to a new deal. But Mr Biden has denied the Iranian demand, and last week confirmed that the IRGC would remain on Washington’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.
Whatever goodwill Mr Biden hoped to generate with Jerusalem by keeping the IRGC on the list will, though, have been dissipated by his administration’s utterly contemptible treatment of its Israeli ally.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph‘s Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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