Spy leaks: SA’s disdain for Israel’s cynical African policies

Secret documents obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit expose a deep disdain by South Africa’s spies for their Israeli counterparts, with intelligence assessments accusing Israel of conducting “cynical” polices in Africa that include “fuelling insurrection,” “appropriating diamonds” and sabotaging Egypt’s water supply.

A secret analysis from South African intelligence also dismisses a tour of African countries by the Israeli Foreign Minister in 2009 as “an exercise in cynicism.”

It says Avigdor Lieberman’s nine-day trip to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya laid the groundwork for arms deals and the appropriation of African resources, while hiding behind “a philanthropic façade”.

South Africa’s “Geopolitical Country and Intelligence Assessment” of October 2009 accused Israel of pursuing “destructive policies” in Africa that include:

Compromising Egypt’s water security : Israeli scientists, the report claimed, “created a type of plant that flourishes on the surface or the banks of the Nile and that absorbs such large quantities of water as to significantly reduce the volume of water that reaches Egypt.” The report offers no additional evidence for this claim.

Fueling insurrection in Sudan: Israel is “working assiduously to encircle and isolate Sudan from the outside,” the report wrote, “and to fuel insurrection inside Sudan.” Mossad agents have also “set up a communications system which serves to both eavesdrop on and secure the security of presidential telecommunications.” Israel had long been at loggerheads with Khartoum, and supported the secessionist movement that eventually broke away and created South Sudan, with which it has diplomatic ties. Khartoum continues to accuse the Israelis of being responsible for attacks in Sudan.

Co-opting Kenyan intelligence: “As part of Mossad’s safari in Central Africa it had exposed to the Kenyans the activities of other foreign spy networks”. In return, the report wrote, Kenya granted permission for a safe house in Nairobi and gave “ready access to Kenya’s intelligence service”.

Arms proliferation : Israel has been “instrumental in arming some African regimes and allegedly aggravating crises among others, including Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and South Africa”, according to the document. Today it “is looking for new markets for its range of lightweight weapons” and covertly supplies armaments to “selected countries inter alia India” including “nuclear, chemical, laser and conventional warfare technologies”.

In one of the document, obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative unit, it reveals how SA spies hid the fact that Israel had obtained stolen weapon plans.

According to one of the cables two men were caught red-handed trying to sell stolen missile blueprints, software and components from Denel. Police launched a sting operation, posed as Russian buyers, and made their arrests outside Johannesburg in 2010.

Somehow, Israel’s Mossad had got hold of the anti-tank missile blueprints. It sparked a behind the scenes battle between the two nations spies. South Africa wanted the blueprints back, which Israel agreed to provided that a citizen, Yitzhak Talia, would not be prosecuted, the cable shows. Court documents suggest that a “Yitzchak Talyah aka Edward Henry Taljaard” was involved.

Acquiring African mineral wealth : Israel “plans to appropriate African diamonds”, the South African spies alleged, as well as “African uranium, thorium and other radioactive elements used to manufacture nuclear fuel”.

Training armed groups: “A few Israeli military pensioners are on the lookout for job opportunities as trainers of African militias,” the reported said, “while other members of the delegation were facilitating contracts for Israelis to train various militias.”

Reports in the Israeli and Nigerian media last month said the US had blocked Israel’s planned sale of military helicopters to Nigeria. Israeli media hailed Israel’s deepening ties with President Goodluck Jonathan for putting an end to a December 30 UN Security Council resolution setting a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories. Nigeria had signaled it would support the Palestinian-backed resolution, but its switch to an abstention denied the resolution the necessary majority in the Council.

The Times reported on Wednesday that “a group claiming to be former agents of Mossad threatened to unleash a devastating cyber-attack on SA unless the government cracked down on the growing campaign to boycott Israel.”

The United States has meanwhile rubbished claims in recently leaked intelligence documents that it opposed African Union commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the position in 2012.

Speaking at a press conference broadcast live across the continent, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the claims contained in the leaked intelligence documents, obtained by Al Jazeera, were “absolute rubbish”.

She said the US worked with the AU and with Dlamini-Zuma, and this partnership was growing. “I don’t know where those claims come from,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield said the AU summit she attended last month was her fourth one, and she commended efforts by the AU to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria and she was pleased with the session on Ebola.

She said the summit theme – women in development – was an issue that mattered a lot to the US.