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U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation: Intelligence Collaboration

One of the most significant contributions Israel has made to U.S. security has been shared intelligence. The truth is the United States has little alternative but to depend on Israel for much of its Middle Eastern human intelligence because the CIA's capability has diminished. In post-revolutionary Iran, the CIA no longer had a presence and the CIA's Lebanon station was virtually wiped out in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut. The United States relies on the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies for information about terrorism, radical Islamic movements, weapons proliferation and other Middle East-related events.

For many years, Israel played a key role in assisting U.S. intelligence through the capture and transfer of Soviet weapons systems. For example, Israel supplied the United States with valuable intelligence about Soviet fighters and their avionics. This occurred as recently as 1989 after a Syrian pilot defected in an advanced model of a MIG-23 and American officials were allowed to examine the plane.

UCLA professor Steven Spiegel also noted at least six changes adopted by the U.S. military that were prompted by Israeli combat experiences: 1) decreased use of searchlights; 2) increased use of thermal sights for night fighting; 3) greater use of tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) in tandem; 4) improvements in command, control, and communications; 5) use of electronic warfare in reconnaissance units; and 6) enhanced air-to-air missiles and electronic countermeasures. Several of these were used with great success in Operation Desert Storm.

US Diplomats reported in 2014 that Israel has been assisting in the fight against the Islamic State by providing the United States with intelligence information, including lists of Westerners who have joined ISIS.  Israel has also provided vital intelligence in the form of drones flying over ISIS territory.  This information is then used to carry out air strikes and plan coordinated attacks. 

A Russian passenger plane travelling from the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, Russia, went down over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015, killing all 224 passengers. After weeks of investigations it was determined that a bomb brought down the plane. U.S. and British intelligence services used information gathered from Israeli security sources during the investigation of the crash. Communications from terror groups in the area were intercepted by Israeli security and later given to U.S. and British investigators.