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Israel's spies lag in shadow war with Iran
by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Oct 18, 2013

Most Israelis support Netanyahu's Iran stance: poll
Jerusalem (AFP) Oct 18, 2013 - Most Israelis support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stance on the Iran nuclear issue after the Islamic republic met world powers in Geneva this week, an opinion poll showed on Friday.

Some 58 percent of respondents to the question "how would you rate Netanyahu's recent performance in the global arena vis-a-vis Iran?" said it was good (41 percent) or very good (17 percent), said the poll published in Haaretz newspaper.

Netanyahu and his government expressed bitter scepticism over nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 countries -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- warning his Western allies they risked being duped into easing sanctions prematurely.

The prime minister said Israel reserved the right to carry out a unilateral military strike to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons capability.

The P5+1 and Israel, Iran's archfoe, fear that Tehran's atomic programme is a disguised effort to develop nuclear weapons capability, a claim it denies vehemently.

Netanyahu's tough stance on foreign affairs -- including Iran and negotiations with the Palestinians -- and his sidelining of domestic issues since his re-election in January have been working to his advantage, the poll said.

It said 63 percent of respondents thought Netanyahu was the best person for prime minister, compared with 56 percent who said the same thing in a July survey.

The poll was carried out on October 15 by the Dialog Institute under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, and questioned 501 people with an error margin of 4.4 percent.

Israel to get US briefing on Iran nuclear talks
Jerusalem (AFP) Oct 20, 2013 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday world pressure on Iran must be maintained, as an Israeli delegation travelled to Washington to be briefed on talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

Israel has been alarmed by the mounting emphasis on diplomacy with the new Iranian government of President Hassan Rouhani to allay concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, fearing that Western governments may ease crippling sanctions before securing any real policy change.

"As long as we don't see actions but only words, the international pressure must continue and increase," Netanyahu said.

He said that the greater the pressure on Iran, "the higher the chance its military nuclear programme will be dismantled."

The Israeli premier also warned of legitimising what he called Tehran's "rogue regime".

Netanyahu's remarks came as a senior Israeli delegation was on its way to Washington for updates on talks between the major powers and Iran over its nuclear programme which resumed in Geneva on Tuesday.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and a team of officials from intelligence services and the foreign and defence ministries were to participate in the bi-annual strategic dialogue, a statement from his office said.

"This year the dialogue will focus on the nuclear talks with Iran and other regional issues," it said of the meetings which are the "central forum" for deepening bilateral cooperation and coordination over issues in the region.

A spokesman for Steinitz said the minister will make a stop in Canada for talks with senior officials there on Monday before heading to the United States.

Ahead of the visit, a senior Israeli official was briefed by the US as well as a British delegation to the Iran talks, which flew in to update the Israelis, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

French and German officials also briefed their Israeli counterparts by phone on the substance of the Geneva talks, the paper said.

Israel's security services say they've arrested an Iranian spy, allegedly the first planted by the Revolutionary Guards' elite al-Quds Force rather than the Islamic Republic's intelligence service.

But the score, it seems, is currently in Iran's favor.

That's due in large part to a sharp deterioration in relations between the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service, and its Turkish counterpart, the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, following the 2010 collapse of the strategic alliance between the two powerful non-Arab states in the Middle East.

A heavy crackdown on Turkey's military leadership, which had been among the staunchest supporters of that alliance, has also weakened the security ties between the two eastern Mediterranean powers, playing into the hands of Iran's spymasters.

The harsh sentences handed down in August by a special tribunal in Ankara to many of the leading Turkish military figures found guilty of plotting to overthrow the elected Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have seriously damaged the once-strong links between the two countries.

Among the 275 defendants in the controversial Ergenekon case -- the alleged coup plot named after the mystic mountain redoubt where Turks believe their nation was born -- was Gen. Ilker Basbug, the former chief of the general staff appointed by Erdogan himself and considered the leader of the 2003 conspiracy.

Basburg, one of the alliance's strongest supporters, was given a life sentence along with scores of other senior officers, most deemed friends of Israel.

The intelligence links with Turkey were enshrined in the strategic agreement signed in 1996, but in fact they date back to a top-secret intelligence pact signed in Ankara in 1958 by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister.

This relationship was of immense value for the Mossad because of Muslim Turkey's access to neighboring Iran.

The MIT's deep knowledge of what went on in Iran, much of it gleaned from defectors, was a boon for the Mossad, as it was for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

But, so bitter was Erdogan about Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and its navy's May 31, 2010, seizure of a flotilla of Turkish ships carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and the killing of nine Turkish activists, the seminal incident that ended the alliance, that he reportedly ordered MIT to move against the Mossad.

The Washington Post reported Thursday in early 2012 Erdogan ordered MIT to reveal to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security the identities of as many as 10 Iranians spying for Israel.

These agents regularly met their Mossad case officers in Turkey, where they were presumably monitored by the MIT, whose chief, Hakan Fidan, is a long-time close associate of Erdogan.

He appointed Fidan as MIT chief May 26, 2010 -- five days before the flotilla incident in the Mediterranean that provoked the Israeli intervention that led to the Israel-Turkey rupture.

At the time, Israeli security officials said there had been an intentional change in relations between Israel and Turkey orchestrated by Erdogan, along with Fidan, the daily Haaretz reported.

Israeli concerns about Fidan, little known outside the Middle East, date from his appointment as MIT chief. In June 2020, then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak branded him "a friend of Tehran."

Israeli intelligence officers are said to have described him facetiously to CIA officials as "the [Iranian intelligence ministry] station chief in Ankara."

The Iranian agent Israel's Shin Bet security service says it arrested in Tel Aviv Sept. 11 was identified as Ali Mansouri, 55.

He was born in Tehran, moved to Belgium in 1997 where he became a naturalized citizen and changed his name to Alex Mans, the identity under which he was traveling.

Officials said Mansouri admitted he was recruited in 2012 by the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards' special operations arm, and paid $1 million to set up a business front in Israel as a cover for Iranian intelligence.

The Israelis have made much of the alleged Quds Force link, suggesting the objective was to conduct terrorist attacks, not engage in espionage like Iranian intelligence ministry agents.

If that's correct, it suggests Iran has a sharp escalation in anti-Israeli operations in mind, possibly extending recent terrorist operations blamed on Quds Force in Thailand, India, Georgia, Nigeria, Kenya and Azerbaijan.

A senior Israeli security official said the case "shows a new level of sophistication" by the Iranians.


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