A month ago or so I wrote a blog post about an Israeli arms dealer who sold spare parts for Iranian F-4 fighter jets to Iran using Greek companies as middlemen. I also wrote that the arms dealer, Eli Cohen, was doing so with the permission of the Mossad, likely as part of a covert network established by Israeli and western intelligence to sabotage Iranian military and nuclear efforts. Further proof of these claims was that Cohen, despite being exposed here and in the Greek (and later Israeli) media, he wasn’t even questioned, let alone arrested. He’d been accused of similar activity several times in the past and similarly never arrested in Israel. Though he was convicted of such crimes in the U.S. and served six months in prison in 1995. He won’t get off as easily this time, especially since the Obama administration isn’t kindly to disposed to Israel just at the present moment.
An Israel Broadcasting Authority report adds an interesting wrinkle noting Cohen is a Lt. Col. in the IDF. Military chaplains (Cohen is ultra-Orthodox) have a rank of Lt. Col. and are not in active combat. I don’t yet know whether he’s an field officer or chaplain. But even if he’s the latter, what does that say about the ethical norms of Israel’s chaplaincy that a spiritual leader is an international arms dealer? If he’s a field officer then it makes more sense for him to be involved in this since he’d be serving Israeli security interests.
Not to mention what this says about Israel’s commitment to anti-Iran sanctions. Israel is the first country to shrey about cutting off Iran’s access to western products and credit. Yet when it’s in Israel’s interests it’s perfectly willing to violate those norms without a shred of remorse. Israel’s hypocrisy is breathtaking. Even more hypocritical is that when one of its own citizens is caught red-handed violating sanctions which Israel demanded that the rest of the world adopt, it doesn’t even prosecute the sucker.
The latest development is that the Shabak arrested Cohen today (Hebrew) at Ben Gurion airport as he was boarding a flight to London with his family. My guess is that he was violating whatever agreement he had with the security forces by leaving the country. Though Cohen portrays the trip as nothing more than a weekend holiday, the Shabak felt otherwise. Articles in the Israeli press noted that Cohen was wanted in the U.S. for violating the sanctions regime in place against Iran.
Another guess is that Israel could not prosecute him because he was acting at the behest of the Israeli government. But the U.S. can prosecute him and ignore this aspect of his efforts since he was not acting at our behest. It will be interesting to know whether the U.S. will also inquire about his relationships with Israeli intelligence. Though I can’t see Israel agreeing to hand him over to the U.S. without a prior understanding about not implicating the Israeli government (even thought it is implicated up to its eyeballs).
If you read this Reuters story about a UN report of companies that are violating sanctions against Iran you won’t find a peep about our good friend Lt. Col. Cohen. I wonder why?