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6 May, 2018 16:34

Trump aides hired Israeli intel firm to find dirt on Obama's Iran deal team – reports

Trump aides hired Israeli intel firm to find dirt on Obama's Iran deal team – reports

US President Donald Trump's aides hired a private intelligence firm to uncover compromising info on key foreign policy advisers to Barack Obama in a bid to undermine the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the Observer reports.

"The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it," a source told the UK newspaper, which has published an exclusive report based on unnamed sources.

According to documents seen by the Observer, the targets included Ben Rhodes, a top national security adviser to then-US President Barack Obama, and Colin Kahl, a former deputy assistant to Obama, and VP Joe Biden's national security adviser.

The brief was to investigate the two men's "personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal."

Additionally, the Israeli agency, also not named, would be charged with investigating if Obama's staff revealed any classified information as they attempted to create what Rhodes himself called an "echo-chamber" of media and political influencers who would whip up support for the deal.

The report admits that "it is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed," and if this was just one strand of attacks on the agreement, which Trump has repeatedly called "the worst deal ever."

The White House has not denied the veracity of the documents, issuing a "no comment" in response to the UK report.

Target says wife approached by intelligence agency

Kahl has revealed a "creepy" story on his social media feed that in his view tallies with the claim that he was targeted by a foreign special ops team.

In a series of tweets, he explains that his wife was approached last year by a supposed UK benefactor who was surprisingly well-informed about her fundraising activities at her local school in the US. The person, who was represented by a professional but "shallow" website, which has since disappeared, repeatedly tried to set up a meeting. Kahl said it seemed akin to "an approach by a foreign intelligence entity."

"The fact that I even have to think about the possibility that my family was targeted by people working for the President is yet another sign of the fundamental degradation of our country that Trump has produced," the former official, who now lectures at Stanford, tweeted.

The other ostensible target, Rhodes, said that he was "not aware" of anything and called the entire undercover investigation "a chillingly authoritarian thing to do."

If such a dirt-digging investigation did take place, its most notable aspect is the choice of the foreign and private entity to carry it out. This highlights both the current administration's apparent distrust of its own security agencies, and the close alignment of views over Iran with Israel, which has expressed outrage over the accord from the start, and reportedly spied on US negotiators as it was being agreed upon. 

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a dramatic presentation, unveiling various intelligence revelations concerning Tehran's behavior both before and after signing the deal, which he summarized as "Iran lied, big time."

Netanyahu insisted that 55,000 documents and 183 CDs of captured files show that the Islamic Republic has preserved a military nuclear program within the confines of the agreement, which restricts the scale and techniques used by its nuclear program.

The White House rushed to claim that it was sufficient proof that Tehran had "a clandestine" nuclear military program, thanking Netanyahu for the "new and compelling details." It is widely speculated that Donald Trump may decertify the deal when the next renewal deadline comes up on May 12, though members of his administration have said that no firm decision has been made yet, and have urged foreign officials to "fix" the agreement.

Iran has responded to Netanyahu's allegations by calling him a "broke and infamous liar," while President Hasan Rouhani said on Sunday that Washington will suffer "historic regret" if it walks away from the nuclear agreement.

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