President Donald Trump’s aides reportedly hired an Israeli spy firm to get dirt on former President Barrack Obama’s foreign policy officials.
A report published by British newspaper The Observer called the move by Trump aides an effort to discredit the Iran nuclear deal agreement.
They first allegedly contacted the spy firm in May 2017 to dig up compromising information on Obama’s top National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and the deputy assistant to Obama, Colin Kahl.
At the time, Trump was merely months into his presidency and was on his first foreign visit as president of the United States to Israel. During his visit, Trump is said to have assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he will not let the Iran arms deal go through and complained that Iranians thought they “could get what they wanted.”
“It’s bloody outrageous to do this. The whole point of negotiations is to not play dirty tricks like this,” said a former high-ranking British diplomat.
Investigators allegedly tasked with the "dirty ops" were instructed to search deeply into the private lives and political careers of these individuals, to check for any friendships with Iran-friendly lobbyists and any personal or political benefits they may have reaped from the deal.
The spies were also reportedly told to contact prominent Iranian-Americans and pro-deal journalists from media outlets like The New York Times, Atlantic, MSNBC, Haaretz and Vox, among others.
These people were frequently in contact with Rhodes and Kahl, and spies were allegedly told to establish if any of the two had violated protocols by sharing sensitive information.
The investigators looked at Rhodes’ comments from a 2016 New York Times profile, where he admitted to creating an echo chamber to tilt public opinion in favor of the deal.
The black ops also wanted to ascertain if the two individuals under question had backed Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s supposed request to reveal the identity of Trump transition officials who had been caught communicating with foreigners under surveillance by the U.S. government.
The alleged smear campaign is being seen as a joint effort by Trump and Netanyahu to discredit the Iran deal and pave the way for the former reality TV star to pull out of it.
Trump has, on many occasions, derided the pact as “the worst deal” in history, accusing the Obama administration of “currying favors” with the Iranian regime.
Netanyahu appears to have a similar outlook on the deal and has repeatedly argued that Iran has only expanded its expertise of nuclear weapons since the deal was signed.
Other, far more experienced, players in the field of international relations have urged Trump to not scrap the deal.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned Trump that it could risk war if he does away with the deal.
The move has been roundly condemned. Rhodes said the tactic was “a chillingly authoritarian thing to do."
As Trump and Netanyahu nonchalantly usher in a war, former Secretary of State John Kerry has scrambled to keep the treaty intact. Recently, details emerged of Kerry meeting Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif to save the deal.
However, this is not the first time that Trump and Co. have allegedly resorted to digging up dirt on political rivals.
Previously, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly met a Kremlin-associated Russian lawyer who promised to dig up dirt on then-Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Joshua Roberts