This week’s meeting between Obama and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu was said to have ended more cordially than their last face-to-face. And Netanyahu does seem to have cooled his calls for war and threats to attack Iran even without notifying the U.S. After all, Iran doesn’t even have a nuclear weapons program.
According to Marc Ambinder, this is because Obama shared with Bibi “the U.S.’s significantly ramped-up American covert sabotage and non-proliferation campaign” inside Iran, calming his fears of an impending nuclear weapon. Ambinder says “the CIA’s ops arm, the National Clandestine Service, along with the U.S. military” are “scrutinizing and seizing cargo shipments bound for Iran, tapping the black market for nuclear supplies and buying up spare parts, and maximizing the collection of Iranian signal traffic.” One primary type of intelligence the U.S. has on Iran’s nuclear program is what is called “measurement and signature intelligence,” or MASINT. These are “sensors on satellites, drones, and on the ground” measuring “everything from the electromagnetic signatures created by testing conventional missile systems to disturbances in the soil and geography around a hidden nuclear facility to streams of radioactive particles that are byproducts of the uranium enrichment process.” The U.S. “knows what Iran has and doesn’t have,” says Ambinder.
Ambinder’s account of covert intelligence gathering conforms to a report from the New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh in May of last year. Hersh reported that for years “soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Force, working with Iranian intelligence assets” went directly into Iran to set these systems up.
Street signs were surreptitiously removed in heavily populated areas of Tehran – say, near a university suspected of conducting nuclear enrichment – and replaced with similar-looking sings implanted with radiation sensors. American operatives, working undercover, also removed bricks from a building or two in central Tehran that they thought housed nuclear enrichment activities and replaced them with bricks embedded with radiation-monitoring devices.
High-powered sensors disguised as stones were spread randomly along roadways in a mountainous area where a suspected underground weapon site was under construction. The stones were capable of transmitting electronic data on the weight of the vehicles going in and out of the site; a truck going in light and coming out heavy could be hauling dirt – crucial evidence of evacuation work. There is also constant satellite coverage of major suspect areas in Iran and some American analysts were assigned the difficult task of examining footage in the hope of finding air vents – signs, perhaps, of an underground facility in lightly populated areas.
Ambinder’s piece doesn’t get deep into the sabotage elements of the covert war on Iran, but we of course know that the Stuxnet computer virus that infected Iran’s nuclear facilities and broke a bunch of their equipment was a U.S. project and that the U.S. has sold broken equipment to Iran through third parties in international markets. Incidentally, Ambinder notes, while the U.S. is sharing all this top secret information with Israel, Israel isn’t sharing anything with us. “Often,” he writes, “the U.S. government finds out about explosions that kill Iranian scientists at the same time as the world press does.” Apparently Bibi doesn’t feel comfortable divulging Israeli proxy terrorism with Obama.