Diplomacy and Secret Service – Online Updating Pages

Chapter 4:   Spooks as Diplomats

p. 41ff, intelligence officers as special envoys: Here (*) are some more examples:

*Senior Mossad officers have long been active in covert diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa. See Inside the Mossad, a documentary mini-series in four episodes directed by Duki Dror, 2017; in Hebrew, with sub-titles. Comprising interviews with former directors, deputy-directors, station chiefs and other Mossad officers, together with personal and archival footage, this is atmospheric and surprisingly revealing. Episode 4 is particularly good on covert diplomacy. In an interview with The Times of Israel, 15 November 2018, the film-maker gives an interesting account of the making of the series. It’s now available on Netflix.
Attention was drawn to this role of senior Mossad officers in August 2020 when it was announced that Israel and the UAE (the Emirates) were to normalise diplomatic relations. According to The New York Times, 13 August 2020, ‘The Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, has invested in clandestine relations with the Gulf States for years, and its director, Yossi Cohen, has met frequently with counterparts in the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt, according to three intelligence officials … . Mr. Cohen has made several secret trips in the past year to the Emirates seeking to enhance cooperation, and the outbreak of the coronavirus created an additional opening. The Mossad took responsibility for procurement of medical equipment that Israel lacked, and shipments arrived on secret flights from the Emirates.’ The Israeli-UAE agreement formalised a relationship that had been an open secret for many years.

*Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s exiled former head of external intelligence, who was murdered in Johannesburg at the beginning of 2014 (probably by a team of Rwandan military intelligence officers), was ‘a flamboyant, fiercely intelligent personality who served more as de facto foreign minister than intelligence chief.’ Self-consciously emulating the Mossad model, he had no reservations about engaging in covert action in neighbouring countries. See Wrong, Michela, ‘Rwanda’s Khashoggi: who killed the exiled spy chief?’ Guardian, 15 January 2019.

*Head of Russian foreign intelligence, the SVR, Sergey Naryshkin, although sanctioned by the Obama administration in March 2014, made an official visit to the United States in January 2018. The Trump administration refused to comment on this but according to the Russian ambassador its purpose was to discuss the ‘joint struggle against terrorism’ with his American counterparts, Reuters, 30 January 2018.

*William J. Casey, Director of the CIA in the 1980s, met heads of state and government on his many foreign trips as well as his intelligence counterparts; these encounters were as much in the interests of his own foreign policy as those of the White House; see Woodward (below) esp. pp. 259, 262, 268-70.

p. 42, intelligence officers as special envoys: That this is now an option routinely considered by the CIA, and therefore by many other states, is suggested by a casual remark of Douglas London in the New York Times on 12 July 2020. Criticizing Donald Trump’s ‘shocking’ failure to take the Russians to task for offering bounties to the Taliban for the killing of American other Coalition soldiers in Afghanistan, London, a former long-serving, senior operations officer in the CIA Clandestine Service and sometime station chief, observed that he ‘could have signalled discontent with Russia diplomatically, economically or through back-channel intelligence conduits’ (emphasis added).
A case I might have mentioned in this section is that of the approach made during the Cuban missiles crisis in October 1962 by Aleksandr Feklisov, the KGB resident in Washington, to White House-connected journalist John Scali. However, less significance appears to be attached to this now than was once the case; see Holbrooke (Main references and further reading below).

p. 46, Box 4.4: In July 2020 there were press reports that, in order to counter the mounting threat from China, Japan might be admitted to the Five Eyes alliance and its remit broadened to include the pooling of strategic materials, including medical supplies. The pandemic had highlighted exceptional dependence on China for some of these goods; see for example The Guardian, 29 July 2020

p. 46, secret service alliances: Another good example is the so-called Safari Club, so styled by Egyptian journalist Mohamed Heikal, who uncovered its existence in 1979. Established in 1976 on French initiative to combat Soviet influence in Africa and south Asia, it was an alliance between the intelligence services of France, Iran, Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Algeria declined to join and Iran ceased to be a member with the downfall of the Shah. It was headquartered in Cairo and operated in informal cooperation with American and Israeli intelligence. Cooley (see below, pp. 15-18) has an authoritative account of the Safari Club and there is a full and well-sourced article on it in Wikipedia.

p. 47, liaisons: There is considerable detail in Woodward (see below) on the CIA’s liaisons with foreign intelligence services; see index refs on Iran, China, Lebanon, S. Africa, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Philippines, Brunei.

Main references and further reading

Cooley, John K., Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, 3rd edn (Pluto Press: London, 2002)

Eshed, Haggai, Reuven Shiloah: The man behind the Mossad. Secret diplomacy in the creation of Israel (Cass: London, 1997)

Faligot, Roger, Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping, transl. Natasha Lehrer (Hurst: London, 2019)

Holbrooke, Richard, ‘Cuban missile crisis: Staying steady’, New York Times, 19 June 2008

Reuven Shiloah (Zaslani) [Obituary], Jewish Virtual Library

‘Safari Club’, Wikipedia

Woodward, Bob, Veil: The secret wars of the CIA, 1981-1987 (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1987)