Doubts On Israel Vow to Assassinate Hamas Leaders
On our latest podcast, former CIA operations officer Doug London says you can’t kill an idea embraced by millions of Palestinians
On the latest SpyTalk podcast, I intended to engage former CIA operations officer Douglas London on a variety of topics exploding across the intelligence waterfront, from the Gaza crisis, to the poisoning of a Ukraine spying chief’s wife, to a reported plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, to India’s purported murder of exile separatists here and in Canada, to an Egyptian agent’s apparent subornation of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, and more. But two subjects quickly dominated our talk: Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to “eradicate” Hamas, and the still mysterious sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in September 2022.
London, who spent a lot of time in the Middle East and South Asia during his 34-year CIA career, told me that an Israeli plan to “eradicate” Hamas was unrealistic. You can “degrade” its capabilities, like the U.S. did with Al Qaeda and ISIS after the 9/11 attacks, he said, but you can’t kill an idea, a cause, embraced by millions of Palestinians.
“It's a big leap, going from…where they're less of a threat to you, to absolute eradication,” he said. “And I think eradicating a group like Hamas, as long as it has popular support within the Palestinian territories—and it certainly does—as long as it has external support materially and financially from the likes of Iran, might be too ambitious and it might be setting your expectations such that you're doomed to fail no matter how far you get along.” Israel should take lessons from its attempt years ago to eradicate Hezbollah.
On another front, London also offered a somewhat disturbing theory that recent stories, particularly in The Washington Post, reporting in detail how a Ukrainian special ops group blew up the Nord Stream 2 pipeline last year, were a product of Russian disinformation.
“I'm among those who believe that the Ukrainians absolutely could not have done this, that it was most certainly the Russians,” London told me. His elaboration on why Russia was the likely culprit was fascinating—if lacking evidence.
London also dismissed reporting that the Biden administration was responsible.
“Having been involved in various capers and covert operations, dealing with such things, I just don't see it as technically feasible. I also don't see it as being an authority that the United States president would have been able to justify, secure, and then receive the support of Congress. At least he would have to notify at the minimum the Gang of Eight, if not the full committees of oversight. And there's just no way this would, one, be kept under wraps, and two, no way they would indulge it and tolerate it.”
Having been a counterterrorism adviser to the Biden campaign and observing him closely as vice president, London declared that “it's not the kind of thing he would do and he would absolutely have to sign off on it.”
He added, “I think there's only a couple of countries that could have done it, feasibly and in terms of how it works, how the covert action process works. This just would not have passed the giggle test.”
Listen to our 30-minute talk here on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts, and do leave your own comments.
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