MI6 chief visits Mossad for talks on Iran’s nuclear threat

THE head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, is to visit Israel later this month as Britain forges closer links with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.

Iran’s nuclear programme is expected to be high on the agenda in an intelligence-sharing process described by Israeli officials as a “strategic dialogue”. It is building on long-standing cooperation between MI6 and Mossad, both of which have extensive spy networks in the Middle East.

Scarlett, 59, is likley to be briefed by Meir Dagan, 63, the head of Mossad, on Israel’s latest information about the Iranian nuclear programme. It is understood that Israel has made a breakthrough in intelligence-gathering within Iran.

There is mounting concern in Israel that Iran’s nuclear capability may be far more advanced than was recognised in a declassified assessment by the US National Intelligence Estimate last December, which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development programme in 2003 in response to international pressure.

One source claimed the new information was on a par with intelligence that led Israel to discover and then destroy a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria last September.

Israeli officials believe the US will revise its analysis of Iran’s programme. “We expect the Americans to amend their report soon,” a high-ranking military officer said last week.

Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, briefed Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, on Israel’s findings during talks on the Middle East in London last week. Israeli intelligence officers, en route from Washington where they had been outlining their latest information to American officials, joined Livni for the briefing.

It is thought that if Israel were considering military action against Iran over its nuclear programme, it would want to ensure it had diplomatic support in London and Washington because of the danger of triggering a wider Middle East conflict.

“We’re doing a lot of things about Iran,” Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, said last week. “We say we shouldn’t rule out any option. Not ruling out options means action, but the worst thing to do at the moment is to talk [about it].” Whitehall officials said Scarlett’s visit was “routine”.

May 4, 2008
Uzi Mahnaimi

Source: The Times

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