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What Would the British Do?

To be honest, I don't know how huge a deal the revelations are in this Foreign Policy piece (and needless to say, these are allegations, not established facts). The short version - agents from Israel's intelligence service are alleged to have disguised themselves as American CIA agents to hire terrorists to kill people inside Iran.

I think a good way to frame this is to ask: would Britain's intelligence service do something like this? If the answer is yes, then Israel's actions are in keeping with how international spy craft and subversion work among allies. If the answer is no, then the argument that Israel is key strategic asset for the United States becomes a lot less credible.

Update: Larison suggests this isn't the right way to frame the news:

I suppose that agents of any government that wanted to employ foreign terrorists to blow up civilians in another country might be inclined to pretend to be working for a different government, since they wouldnâ??t want to implicate their government in such crimes, but that doesnâ??t tell us very much. Itâ??s not just the false flag nature of the operation that is bothersome. If the report is true, this operation involved a terrorist group that blows up civilians in mosques, and the perception that the U.S. was behind the group that did these things invited attacks on Americans. In addition to encouraging atrocities against civilians, the operation made it seem as if the U.S. were complicit in those atrocities.

My point was simply that it's difficult to tell how far over the line Israel's alleged actions were if similar stunts had been pulled by other allied intelligence services in the past. In their own right, these allegations are obviously troubling.

Update II: Evelyn Gordon says there's reason to be skeptical of the charges:

Israel termed the report â??absolute nonsense,â? explaining that had it been true, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan would have been declared persona non grata in Washington rather than being a welcome visitor. Nor is that idle speculation: Those same two presidents forced the ouster of three other senior Israeli defense officials over other issues; why would they have given Dagan a pass?

Just last year, Uzi Arad was forced to resign as chairman of Israelâ??s National Security Council due to Washingtonâ??s anger over leaked information from U.S.-Israeli talks on nuclear issues. And in 2005, two senior Defense Ministry officials â?? director general Amos Yaron and chief of security Yehiel Horev â?? were forced out due to Washingtonâ??s anger over Israelâ??s agreement to upgrade Harpy drones for China, following a year in which the Pentagon boycotted Yaron entirely. Thus, had Dagan committed an offense as egregious as Perry claimed, itâ??s inconceivable that he would have continued for years to be not only a welcome guest, but even one of Washingtonâ??s preferred Israeli interlocutors.