The Israeli Shabak announced (and in Hebrew) with a flourish today that on September 11th it had apprehended an alleged Iranian spy who had been working on behalf of the Iran Revolutionary Guards. He is Ali Mansuri, 55, a dual Belgian-Iranian citizen. He went by the name Alex Mans when he entered Israel. He was born in Iran and lived there until 1980. Then he emigrated to Turkey, where he lived till 1997 as a businessman. Then, Belgium offered him a visa to reside there and continue his business activities. In 2006, he applied for and received Belgian citizenship by marrying a Belgian citizen from whom he was later divorced.
Because of his dual nationality, Mansuri was an especially attractive target for Iranian intelligence. It should be remembered that the Mossad too recruited Israeli dual citizens like Ben Zygier who were citizens of friendly countries and would not attract undue attention.
The Israeli security service claims that he visited Israel a total of three times under cover of being a businessman. Anyone visiting his website will wonder how he could be a successful businessman, let alone spy:
European Folded Glass System is Big Company in Europe
We sell the beauty happiness and comfort You could change your design with our system to be more relax and space We have several model such a balcony ,elegant , ray Balcony model in two tempered glass 8 and 10 mm you could use for your any place. Elegant model with 100mm tempered glass Ray model with 10mm tempered glass All usable in different profile and glass color
The Shabak statement doesn’t offer any information on how he was identified. It does note the Iranians promised Mansuri a $1-million payment for his services though it offered no proof such payments were actually proferred.
Among the charges offered against Mansuri is this strange one:
The detainee tried to aid Iran in its efforts to circumvent the trade embargo and transfer funds [internationally].
Why and how an Iranian spy would focus on Israel as a target to transfer funds or circumvent the trade embargo makes very little sense unless he was attempting to export forbidden products from Israel to Iran. If so, it would seem a fool’s errand given the level of security in place inside Israel to prevent such developments. In fact, the Shabak report says he attempted to establish business connections inside Israel by providing roofing and windows for restaurants and other businesses. Do these sample products featured on his website appear to be of the sort that would allow massive violations of international sanctions?
This arrest follows another a few weeks ago of a mentally-troubled Israeli citizen who visited the Iranian embassy in Berlin asking to spy on its behalf inside Israel. The Shabak believes that Iran turned him in in the hopes of distracting from the real spy it was working in Israel’s midst.
Though I don’t doubt the IRG would want to infiltrate its agents into Israel, I somehow find it highly suspect that Israel didn’t know from almost the first moment Mansuri showed up at Ben Gurion that he was a suspicious character. Even if he tried to conceal his Iranian ethnicity, these things aren’t hard to trace. I believe that Shabak knew almost from the first moment he arrived what or who he was. It allowed him to enter Israel, tracing what he was doing to figure out the methods being used by the IRG to try to spy on the country.
The Shabak statement says it didn’t pick up Mansuri the first few times he visited. Personally, I find it hard to believe the Shabak couldn’t detect someone entering Israel under an assumed name. But even if true, I never believe he posed a threat to anyone. In short, this incident is nothing like the Israeli-MeK assassination campaign and sabotage of Iranian missile facilities, which are crimes of state terrorism for which the Mossad and its leadership should be tried before an international court. Israel’s spying and terror is far more lethal than anything Iran has mounted (even including bombs allegedly exploded in Dehli and Thailand).
My Israeli source confirms that the timing of this announcement is deliberate. Haaretz confirms this with the following:
Exposure of Iranian agent: ammunition for Bibi’s UN speech
Mako goes even farther:
Security Sources: the Timing of the Arrest of the Iranian Spy is No Accident
Maariv quotes a “senior official accompanying the prime minister,” who my Israeli source tells me is Bibi himself, giving this desperate spin to the incident:
At a time when Iran was denouncing terror on American soil, it sents its agent to gather intelligence for a terror attack against the U.S. embassy in Israel.
Holy smokes! Because they found a single picture in his camera that means Iran was about to blow the U.S. embassy sky-high!
Haaretz columnist Uri Misgav is brutally acerbic in his evaluation of the Shabak’s performance:
An Embarrassing, Troubling Episode in Shabak History:
The report was hurried and amateurish. The timing ridiculously transparent. The substance not earth-shaking. The security services don’t usually supply PR and hasbara services for the prime minister, nor political fodder for the road.
Only the NYT’s Isabel Kershner naively and typically called the timing “serendipitous.”
As Yossi Melman so rightly noted in his latest piece for The Post (Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew edition), Bibi has cried Wolf so many times in the past that it no longer registers with anyone but his own followers. No one believes that Israel can or will attack Iran given the latest moderating voices that have been heard in New York and Washington.
Yediot also notes that Shabak uncharacteristically released this story before it had completed its investigation. Another reason to suspect political timing to the report.
Bibi is desperate to change the momentum in world discourse away from Iran’s peace overture and Obama’s embrace of it. What better way to do that than to remind the world Iran is a perfidious enemy stopping at nothing to attain regional domination through infiltration of its enemies territory and sabotage of its infrastructure. You’ll note however, there was no display of the weapons, bomb-making equipment, etc. Mansuri was using in his dastardly plot. All they had to offer was a picture of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv that Mansuri allegedly shot. Incriminating!
This reminds me somewhat of the Saudi ambassador assassination plot allegedly orchestrated by an Iranian drug-dealer and wife-beater who was a cousin of a senior member of the IRG. Much ado about very little. If Bibi does shine a spotlight in his speech on this plot he risks another Wile E. Coyote moment like the one last year in which he offered a magic marker poster board mock up of Iran’ s ticking nuclear time-bomb. Instead of that ticking time bomb, he might as well hold up a new poster featuring Ali Mansuri holding that bomb in his hands. It will look about as foolish as last year’s episode.
In short, Mansuri is a convenient foil for Bibi’s upcoming fulminations at the General Assembly in which he will tell the world “the truth” about Iran. A speech, I might add, that the entire world awaits with bated breath.
Just as interesting as what’s contained in Shabak’s revelations about the Iranian spy incident is what isn’t. In a list of Iran-inspired terror attacks against Israel there is curiously no mention of the attack on the airport in Burgas. Those with some memory will remember that Bibi shouted from the rooftops after that attack that Iran’s IRG was responsible. Now it appears that even this Israel intelligence agency disagrees. Though the quiescent Israeli press has never called Bibi on his lie. Unfortunately, Amos Harel’s Haaretz story linked above repeats the false claim that Iran was involved. In this, he amplifies Bibi’s lies.
So one might add that any Israeli claim that it has proven the hand of Iran is behind anti-Israel terror must be taken with very large grains of salt unless and until proven otherwise. Further, Israel appears to be making the same mistake the CIA did in 2003 when it allowed itself to be politically co-opted by the Bush-Cheney folks to gin up a false WMD charge and war against Iraq. Politicizing intelligence is a very bad idea. But Israel does it shamelessly as I’ve shown here many times.
In my review of Iran related media analysis, time for the Razzberry of the Day to the NY Times’ David Sanger, who wrote a “news report” which delineates precisely what Iran will have to give up in order to attain a nuclear agreement. Note below, how Iran’s leadership is ‘divided’ while of course we here in the U.S. see eye-to-eye on every aspect of the Iran question:
At the heart of the “significant concerns” that Mr. Obama said the two countries would have to address is whether Iran’s divided leadership is really willing to dismantle vast parts of the multibillion-dollar atomic infrastructure it has amassed over the past decade as just part of the price for ridding the country of the sanctions that have crippled daily life.
…On the list is dismantling a multibillion-dollar heavy-water reactor nearing completion — a potential source of plutonium — and halting production at, and ultimately destroying, a deep underground site, called Fordo, designed to be immune from Israeli air attack and American cyberattack.
Who said anything about dismantling anything? Use of the word is deliberately provocative and overdramatizes the issue. Infrastructure can be mothballed, converted. Not to mention that much of Iran’s current facilities may be perfectly acceptable under whatever new conditions are imposed on enrichment. Any number of things can be done with Iran’s nuclear facilities which are deemed extraneous to this purpose short of tearing them down. As for the fate of Fordo, I’d much rather leave this question to nuclear talks than cede it to a reporter with an agenda as obvious and provocative as Sanger’s. If Iran is willing to shut it down and the U.S. offers something sufficient in return, all’s the better. But let’s not pretend that the only grounds for skepticism regarding an agreement lies with Iran and proving its credibility.
I believe Sanger has sources within the administration who are shoveling to him scripted comments that allow Obama to put his best foot forward with the hawks in Congress and the Lobby. But the danger is that the skewed tone of his coverage can bleed into relations with Iran and allow hardliners there to trumpet what they see as Rouhani’s cravenness in giving up these goodies to the Americans before getting anything real in return.