According to CIA memos from 2009, officers from Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, were posing as American spies to recruit operatives from Jundallah, an extremely violent Sunni terrorist group. Jundallah seeks the overthrow of the Shiite-led Iranian regime, and is known to have carried out attacks on Iranian political officials, security personnel, and civilians.

The memos provide a telling look into just how far Israel is willing to go to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capabilities – and the type of tactics Israel is willing to use; its hard to play the “innocent victim” card when you’re recruiting terrorists to do your dirty work.

What’s just as interesting about the memos, however, is that they also illuminate conflicts between American and Israeli intelligence agencies, which have been at odds over how to deal with Iran. While the Israelis favour aggressive and violent covert attacks and working with groups like Jundallah, the Americans do not support such tactics (or so they say; given the US’s history of covert operations, its unlikely they’re as innocent as they claim – we’re still waiting for those memos to come out).

Due to this discrepancy, the discovery of Israel’s program caused significant controversy in American political and intelligence circles.

According to reports, Bush was infuriated after first learning of the program and the White House became concerned that Israel’s actions were putting Americans at risk. While the US willingly admits to being involved in joint intelligence-gathering operations with Israel against Iran, it denies involvement in “actions targeting Iran’s infrastructure or political or military leadership”.

The discovery of the program also caused a rift within US intelligence agencies, pitting those who questioned Israel’s bold and dangerous moves and were concerned they potentially opened up the US to retaliatory attacks, against those who claimed Israel was still their ally and Iran still the enemy.

The uncovering of this information is particularly pertinent in the aftermath of last week’s assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist – the 4th in the last 2 years – given that the CIA and Mossad have long been alleged to be behind the attacks on Iranian scientists as part of an attempt to stall Iran’s nuclear program.

At least as far back as 2007, reports have claimed the US was offering covert support to Jundallah and its fight against Iran, though the US has always denied any involvement with the group.

It remains unclear whether Israel’s recruitment of Jundallah operatives continues.*

* see also: Jundullah claims Iran attack on mosque.