by Stephen Oryszczuk

Benjamin Netanyahu deliberately over-egged Iran’s nuclear position at the UN while Israeli intelligence agencies worked to undermine an African state, leaked spy memos claim.

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Top secret Mossad cables show Israeli spies had a very different idea of the Iranian nuclear threat than Netanyahu portrayed to world leaders in 2012

The blistering revelations are part of a series of secrets published around the world this week, when a cache of classified memos between South African spies and their foreign counterparts were leaked to the press.

The timing of the cables raised eyebrows, coming just days before Netanyahu addresses the US Congress – an engagement he arranged without consulting the White House. Netanyahu is expected to raise the spectre of an imminent Iranian nuclear bomb to dissuade US lawmakers from agreeing a deal with Tehran – so the timing of news that Israeli spy service Mossad thought Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons” is acutely embarrassing.

It follows the widely-publicised claims he made at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, when he drew a red line on a cartoon bomb and said Iran was only a year away from having an atomic weapon.

Netanyahu is not alone in being undercut by the leaks, because they also show that in 2012, a CIA agent enlisted the help of a South African spy because he was “desperate” to make contact with Hamas in Gaza.

Among the other insights revealed in the reports by South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was that Israel was “working assiduously to encircle and isolate Sudan from the outside, and to fuel insurrection from inside”.

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The timing of the leaks has embarrassed Netanyahu, just days before he is due to ask the US Congress not to back a deal with Iran

Last year, Israeli jets are believed to have bombed a Sudanese ammunition warehouse, which is understood to have been storing arms bound for Hamas, despite assurances from President Omar Al-Bashir that his country is no longer a sponsor of terrorism.

The secret dossiers also revealed the extent to which Israeli defence contractors are active across Africa, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman shown to have “facilitated contracts for Israelis to train various militias” across the continent.

Elsewhere, South African intelligence officers note that Israel “plans to appropriate African diamonds and process them in Israel”. Israel is already the world’s second-largest processor of diamonds.

The leaked cables, which were passed to Al-Jazeera and verified by British media, further show that Mossad maintained close relations with South African regimes during the apartheid era, but distanced itself from its Mandela-inspired successor, the African National Congress.

They also show that in 2009, former Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan sought Pretoria’s help in scuppering a UN report into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza, led by South African judge Richard Goldstone.