Saturday, July 19, 2003

Thanks to CalPundit for linking to the General's speculation that Israel may be Tony Blair's 'secret source' for the Iraq-African uranium link.

Two interesting points came up in the comments following the CalPundit blog:

[1] It turns out that Israel has a 'parallel intelligence agency' just like Don Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans (OSP) which circumvents the CIA to provide the most alarmist spins on raw intelligence possible. As The Guardian reports,
The OSP was an open and largely unfiltered conduit to the White House not only for the Iraqi opposition. It also forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon's office in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam's Iraq than Mossad was prepared to authorise. . . .

The exchange of information continued a long-standing relationship Mr Feith and other Washington neo-conservatives had with Israel's Likud party.
Could Sharon's special intelligence office be the source for Bush fingering "Somalia and possibly DR Congo" in the National Intelligence Estimate?

[2] The right is trying to pin France as Tony Blair's secret "foreign intelligence service" source, relying mostly on the Iraq-Niger link and Niger's status as a former French colony. The General thinks the African uranium quest has moved beyond Niger, but let's still entertain the possibility that France is the source.

The reason Jack Straw has given for not revealing The Source is because it is 'against the rules'. Any foreign intelligence service requesting anonymity is ensured anonymity (is this even remotely believable?). A rumor circulated earlier this week and was reported in The Scotsman that Blair was going to name France publicly. Of course, that never happened.

If France is The Source, why desire to preserve anonymity this long? The right thinks it's a gambit by Chirac to save face; he knew Saddam was a dangerous madman hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, but valued their oil contracts more than the future of humanity. Yes, people actually get paid for writing such crap.

A French connection is certainly plausible in light of France's colonial ties to much of uranium producing Africa, but the continuing refusal to go public makes no sense. This is all the more so since this evidence cannot be air tight by any means. If it was, damn the rules -- Blair needs saving! Plus, France has formally denied passing any intelligence along to London regarding the Iraqi Uranium Quest ("Contrary to the insinuations which appeared in the British press, France is not behind the intelligence published in the British dossier dated September 24, 2002 and relative to the nuclear program of Iraq"), whether in Niger or anywhere else. This outright French denial must surely void the oh-so-important 'rules' and release the Brits to reveal the fact that France is lying. Unfortunately for the right, London never took the opportunity to deny the French denial. Finally, the fall-out of such a revelation for Chirac would surely be minimal at most. It's a safe assumption that this supposed intelligence is shaky at best -- like most of the intelligence cooked up by both London and Washington in the run-up to war. Chirac could freely state that the information was worth passing on but, "Mon Dieu! We wouldn't have gone to war over it!"

The Israel guess is no worse on the evidence than France and far better on the plausibility scale -- even moreso in light of the fact that Mossad is no more in control of Israeli intelligence than is the CIA over American intelligence. It could even be the case that Israel passed along the same intelligence to both the US and the UK independently but with opposite evaluations of its worth. Stranger things have happened. Has anybody actually asked Israel yet? Sharon? Mossad? Anybody?

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