Ronen Bergman is one of Israel's leading investigative journalists. The senior security and intelligence correspondent and analyst for Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and an anchor on a leading Israeli television news program, he is the author of three bestselling books published in Israel. He was awarded a PhD by Cambridge University for his dissertation about the Israeli Mossad.
Question: What was Libya’s role in the Lockerbie bombing?
Ronen Bergman: Well, basically the most prominent conspiracy theory was coming from Pan Am Insurance Company Investigation that was ran by a guy called Juval Aviv, who also pretends to be an ex-Mossad officer, codename “Avner,” that wrote the book, “Vengeance,” that was the basis for the Spielberg movie "Munich" about Mossad assassination after the Olympic massacre.
Everything that he wrote is false. I saw and I had numerous meetings and conversations with him. Every time that we reach the point where he was supposed to give me the smoking gun, that one conclusive evidence that proves that it wasn't the Libyans. That it was Iran sending the [PFLG] Organization to take revenge for taking off that Iranian airbus, air craft, by the US Vincent’s ship by missile. And that the CIA had a unit called Korea that was involved in taking down Pan Am 103 for their reasons.
Every time that we reach that smoking gun, he said, “No, no. It’s in a safe in Europe. I’m going to give it to you tomorrow. It would take me a few more hours.”
I never saw any real conclusive evidence that connects Iran to this case or disconnect the Libyans and, at the end of the day, Muammar al-Gaddafi paid compensations. So, I don’t know. From his point of view, why? And he gave the person involved to a trial. Why would he pay any money for something that he didn’t do?
Question: What do improved American-Libyan relations mean for the future of the Middle East?
Ronen Bergman: There is very positive example and very negative example to negotiating on nuclear issues.
The very positive is Libya. Look, the MI6 and CIA got involved with the son of Gaddafi who convinced his father, who used to be considered the most crazy of all Middle East leaders, to compromise and to give up everything for Western support. This is very positive. And they complied with all promises that they gave and disassembled the whole of their nuclear project.
The negative example would be, of course, North Korea, that signed a sort of a deal with President [Bill] Clinton just to store time and have more nuclear advancement that led them to a bomb.
Now, the lesson would be, I think, that the US should negotiate with Iran if the Iranians are willing to negotiate. The US cannot afford to refuse negotiation with what I see as the worst security challenge the US is facing, and this is Iran. If Iranians are willing to negotiate, the US should deal with them without preconditions.
I know that Senator John McCain preaches for preconditions. I don’t support his view.
I think that the US should go to the negotiation table by just making sure the Iran is not just doing it as they did to Europeans, to gain time. If Iran is willing to negotiate the stopping of the enrichment of uranium, cutting relations with Iraq and Afghani insurgencies, stopping aid to Hamas, and stopping promoting Hezbollah, I think that this would be great. This would be a major solution and a peaceful solution and maybe the last chance before striking Iran.
I would gloomily suspect that the Iranians would not give all this, which they deem as a very important interest and, at the end of the day, much more harsh actions would be taking place against Iran.
Recorded: Sep 19, 2008