Exclusive: Israel’s Farewell Dossier? If They’re Not Doing It, They Should Be
by N. M. GUARIGLIA
February 19, 2009
Reuters recently reported that Israel has been involved in a “covert war of sabotage inside Iran” to thwart the mullahs’ efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb. The report cited a British newspaper, which itself referenced quotes from a “former CIA agent” and those unnamed but oh-so ubiquitous “intelligence experts.” Well, I initially thought, if the CIA says it’s true, it’s probably not — when was the last time they were spot on the money? — but there may be, after all, more than a morsel of truth to the reports.
Followers of Iran might recall the mysterious death of Ardashir Hosseinpour, a former nuclear scientist for the Islamic Republic. Dr. Hosseinpour, an expert on electromagnetism, was working on enriching uranium at Iran’s Isfahan nuclear facility before he was killed from “radioactive poising.” Throughout the years, other various high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence officials have “disappeared” from the world stage — or, less secretively, sought asylum in the West.
One excerpt from the Reuters report caught my eye, however:
Meir Javendafar, an Iran expert at Meepas, a Middle East analysis group, told Reuters there were also reports Iran was being sold faulty equipment for its nuclear program, and that there were attempts to disrupt the electricity supply to Natanz, a uranium enrichment facility in central Iran.
“I think there is sabotage going on. It’s a logical move and it makes sense in the game that is part of the overall struggle to disrupt Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” he said.
I do not know Mr. Javendafar personally, but he is a fellow writer at Pajamas Media whose journalism we all should take seriously. What he refers to is reminiscent of an often overlooked Cold War-era program called the “Farewell Dossier.” Are the Israelis conducting such sabotage against the Iranian nuclear program? Are they pursuing their own version of the Farewell Dossier? One thing is for sure: if they aren’t, they probably should be.
The Farewell Dossier was a secret Reagan initiative, at the time known to only a few men, and run by a single individual: Gus Weiss. According to Paul Kengor, in his marvelous book The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Weiss was a force to be reckoned with: “Weiss was a behind-the-scenes foot soldier in the Reagan economic war… apolitical and nonideological, Weiss, who tinkered with game theory as a hobby, was married to public service and dedicated his life to it.”
The U.S. had long suspected Moscow of having an efficient and highly secretive program designed to steal Western technology, scientific and otherwise. In 1981, these suspicions were justified when Soviet defector Colonel Vladimir I. Vetrov fled the motherland for France. Vetrov was known as “Farewell,” and it was Vetrov who photographed more than 4,000 KGB documents proving the existence of stealth Soviet espionage.
French President Mitterand told a thankful Reagan of the Russian program, and the Reagan administration — CIA director Bill Casey and Gus Weiss, most notably — set out to implement a broad and audacious counter-intelligence effort. Weiss discovered that the Soviets had tasked two KGB units — code-named Directorate T and Line X — to literally steal Western technical know-how and American high-tech products. Kengor quotes Weiss: “the Soviet military and civil sectors were in large measure running their research on that of the West, particularly the United States. Our science was supporting their national defense.”
What did this mean? According to Kengor, “Radar, computers, machine tools, semiconductors — everything was an open book for them.” It was as if the Defense Department had been in an arms race with itself, to paraphrase a Pentagon official at the time. Thanks to Vetrov’s defection, 200 Line X officers were captured and more than 100 Line X initiatives were discovered.
What happened then is the stuff of Cold War legend, where a “mild-mannered economist named Gus Weiss,” to quote William Safire, “helped us win the Cold War.” Kengor explains:
In response to this wealth of information, Weiss planned an ingenious response, which he presented to Casey in December 1981: Because of Farewell, noted Weiss, Reagan’s NSC was suddenly in possession of a Line X shopping list of still-needed technology by the Soviets. Weiss offered a suggestion: U.S. counter-intelligence could intervene and supply some of these technologies, and even add enticing new technologies to the shelf, but with a fatal catch: these technologies would appear genuine but would later prove defective and destructive. Using the Soviet need for new technology as a weakness, the United States could sabotage the Soviet program (emphasis added).
The Reagan-Weiss-Casey plan was an unequivocal success, resulting in unknown victories that have only now become declassified. One such triumph occurred when “hidden malfunctions, including software… triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline” — what former Air Force secretary Thomas Reed described as a prime example of “cold-eyed economic warfare” against the Soviets.
Fidel Castro himself has recalled how furious Mikhail Gorbachev was as Western countries continued to arrest Soviet spies. Unaware of the Farewell Dossier, the Soviets operated in the total dark, completely unaware of what was occurring in American laboratories and industries. Unknowingly, they lusted what they claimed to loathe; finding themselves dependent on the very same people Khrushchev promised he would bury.
No doubt the mullahs find themselves in a comparable position. With global oil prices plummeting, they are financially strapped. Their allies in Iraq were humiliated militarily in 2007-08, and then politically in last month’s Iraqi elections. Their proxies in Gaza and Beirut are nursing their wounds. And their people, whom they incalculably fear, continue to detest their unquestioned theocratic rule.
The one thing the mullahs have going for them is the dual-dilemma of their atomic pursuits and the West’s own proclivity towards passivity. While the Israelis should be conducting their own Farewell Dossier program against Iran’s nuclear capabilities, this measure can only go so far. Sure, it might bankrupt the clerical regime — as it did the Politburo — but the mullahs, like vicious raccoons caught in a trash bin, will hang on to their country’s financial resources until the very last drop… all to cling to power.
As with the fall of the Soviet Union, support for democratic political opposition in Iran is essential. The United States has precious little time to act. If nothing of serious consequence occurs within the year, the Israelis themselves will be forced to handle the situation on their own.
And when that time comes, it won’t be so covert.