Home Feature News US intel businesses hunt for proof of Iranian position in Hamas assault on Israel | CNN Politics

US intel businesses hunt for proof of Iranian position in Hamas assault on Israel | CNN Politics

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US intel businesses hunt for proof of Iranian position in Hamas assault on Israel | CNN Politics

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Washington
CNN
 — 

The US intelligence group is digging by way of its shops of knowledge and tasking the nation’s spy businesses to hunt for recent clues to find out whether or not Iran performed a direct position in Saturday’s lethal assault on Israel by Hamas, a senior Biden administration official stated Tuesday.

Even because the US believes Iran is “complicit” within the assault, given its years of assist to the Palestinian militant group, nationwide safety adviser Jake Sullivan stated Tuesday that the administration nonetheless doesn’t have direct proof linking Tehran to the planning and execution of the assault.

“We’re seeking to purchase additional intelligence,” Sullivan advised reporters on the White Home. “However as I stand right here as we speak, whereas Iran performs this broad position – sustained, deep and darkish position in offering all of this assist and capabilities to Hamas – when it comes to this specific grotesque assault on October 7, we don’t at present have that data.”

Privately, a number of intelligence, army and congressional officers with entry to categorized intelligence inform CNN the identical factor that Sullivan stated publicly: No direct proof has been discovered indicating Iran was immediately concerned.

“Ready to see if we get a smoking gun within the intel,” stated one army official.

Israeli intelligence can be going again and inspecting earlier proof, a senior Israeli official advised CNN.

“I doubt that Iran had no information in any way,” the official stated. “We’ve seen conferences and we’ve seen the shut coordination between them.”

US and Israeli intelligence had no advance warning of the assault – one thing US officers say is gorgeous given the size of the assault – and now, the Biden administration is treading cautiously.

Iran has for years been Hamas’ chief benefactor, offering it with tens of tens of millions of {dollars}, weapons and parts smuggled into Gaza, in addition to broad technical and ideological assist.

Hamas maintains a level of independence from the Iranian regime. Tehran doesn’t have advisers on the bottom in blockaded Gaza, in line with former safety officers and different regional analysts, and it doesn’t command the group’s actions.

However the unprecedented scale of the weekend’s assault – mixed with analysts’ broad perception that Iran sees the assault as a internet optimistic for its pursuits within the area – have fueled questions of whether or not Hamas may have pulled off such a complicated operation with out direct Iranian help.

“We spend loads of time and sources worrying about what Iran is doing and how one can counter what Iran is doing,” a State Division official stated. “This actually opens up a brand new chapter in that dialogue.”

In 2022, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh stated publicly that the group had acquired about $70 million from Iran that 12 months and that it used the cash to construct rockets. A State Division report from 2020 discovered that Iran supplied about $100 million yearly to Palestinian terrorist teams, together with Hamas.

Former US officers say there’s little query the huge stockpile of weapons utilized in Saturday’s assault was acquired and assembled with assist from Iran.

“Hamas didn’t construct the steerage system and people missiles in Gaza,” stated retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, the previous commander of US Central Command. “They received them from someplace. And the know-how help to place it collectively actually got here from Iran – the place else wouldn’t it have come from?”

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has for days stopped in need of attributing a task within the tactical planning and execution of the assault to Tehran, and present and former US intelligence analysts who spoke to CNN cautioned that previous Iranian assist to the group isn’t sufficient proof to show its direct involvement.

A plume of smoke rises in the sky over Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9.

“Even when they didn’t give the instruction, you see it within the assist,” stated Zohar Palti, the previous head of the Political-Army Bureau at Israel’s Ministry of Protection. “Is Hamas an entire Iranian proxy that does every part Iran desires? No. However the relationship is far nearer than it was even three years in the past.”

Tehran has denied any involvement within the assault, even because it has lauded it publicly. Israel has additionally expressed warning publicly.

“We’ve got no proof or proof” that Iran was behind the assault, Maj. Nir Dinar, a spokesperson for the Israel Protection Forces, advised Politico on Monday. “We’re one hundred pc certain that the Iranians weren’t stunned.”

Privately, some US officers consider it’s possible Iran had at the least some involvement within the planning of the assault. However these private assessments are largely primarily based on the assumption that Iran would possible search for any alternative to disrupt the fragile negotiations that had been within the works to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Saturday’s assault is broadly seen as having endangered these talks.

Different analysts say it’s equally possible that Iran would have needed to keep up its distance from any Hamas operation in opposition to Israel — even when it was conscious of the assault upfront.

It isn’t in Iran’s curiosity to have extra direct involvement, stated Norm Roule, the previous nationwide intelligence supervisor for Iran on the CIA.

“Iran identifies regional proxies after which gives them with the political, monetary and safety assist to dominate their specific geography,” Roule stated. “Iran encourages army operations, however its proxies handle these actions.”

Fire burns in Ashkelon, Israel. after rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023.

It’s doable that Iran supplied some operational and planning assist upfront of the assault, however that it advised Hamas, “You’re by yourself as soon as it occurs,” stated Mike Knights, a senior fellow on the Washington Institute who focuses on Iran-backed proxy teams.

“This appears to be like like Hamas discovered some very important new tips from another person and which will nicely have been the Iranians,” Knights stated. “However that doesn’t essentially imply that Iran is up for broadening the conflict.”

The connection between Iran and Hamas has advanced through the years. Within the early days of the Syrian civil conflict a decade in the past, Hamas and Iran discovered themselves on reverse sides of the battle.

For years, the 2 had a fraught relationship pushed by two totally different Islamist ideologies: Sunni Muslim Hamas and Shia Muslim Iran. However Hamas noticed Iran’s affect increasing within the area, particularly as America’s shrinking position within the Center East created an influence vacuum for Tehran to use, in line with Michael Milshtein, the previous head of the Division for Palestinian Affairs within the Israeli army’s intelligence directorate.

Extra not too long ago, Tehran has stepped up the coaching help it gives Hamas inside Iran, in line with a former Western protection official. “Iran was being extra proactive in logistics and coaching of those folks,” the previous official stated. “They’ve gone full on in previous couple of years … with express need to destabilize” the area.

In accordance with Knights, the closest relationship that Shia Iran now has with any Sunni group is Hamas. Tehran has “supplied Hamas with precision loitering munitions drone methods that it has not even supplied the Iraqi militias, (with) which it has had relationships for the reason that Nineteen Eighties.”

“This means a degree of precise operational arming, coaching, equipping that we’ve solely beforehand seen with Lebanese Hezbollah, after which with the Houthis in Yemen,” Knights stated.

However Hamas isn’t a proxy of Iran, Milshtein stated. In contrast to terror teams similar to Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas maintains a big diploma of independence from Tehran, at the same time as the help has dramatically expanded.

“Hamas turned comfy getting near Iran,” Milshtein stated, however the relationship stays largely primarily based on army cooperation. Hamas acquired Iranian weapons and army know-how, and discovered from the Iranians about planning operations. However the energy to decide remained with Hamas’ management.

“All the pieces we’ve seen within the final 4 days, we are able to’t say it’s an Iranian plan or an Iranian effort,” Milshtein stated. “It’s a Hamas plan that received Iranian assist.”

US intelligence officers are additionally working to know Hamas’ instant motivation for launching the assault. In contrast to the Palestinian Authority, the militant group doesn’t acknowledge Israel and is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state.

Broadly, the greater than 2 million residents of the Gaza Strip stay in crowded and substandard situations, partly on account of a yearslong Israeli blockade and recurring airstrikes on the densely populated enclave.

McKenzie and others stated Hamas was possible motivated by its personal parochial trigger greater than it was by any curiosity in disrupting normalization talks.

“I feel the Hamas calculation may be very little on normalization,” McKenzie stated. “I feel it’s much less the bigger geostrategic issues within the theater.

“It’s the Hamas-Israeli relationship, not the bigger, ‘What does this imply to Saudi Arabia?’”

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