Monday, September 30, 2013

Tel Aviv, Israel: "To Catch a Spy"

israel Hayom
Yoav Limor

To catch a spy
  1. Iran followed the playbooks of the most advanced intelligence agencies in the world. This recruit was a quality asset -- an Iranian national with a foreign passport who was an easy recruiting target thanks to his need for Iranian business permits. The method was reliable -- he registered a legitimate company in Belgium, opened offices, maintained a Facebook page for his business, printed business cards with authentic telephone numbers, and did actual business. He located Israeli businesspeople and signed business contracts with them for the purpose of real work in construction and glass veneers.
  2. Unlike other intelligence agents apprehended in Israel in recent years, this spy was a professional. He underwent prolonged training (more than a year) that included various methods of intelligence gathering, with an emphasis on photography. His cover story was well established, and he was very careful to keep his identities and passports separate (using his Belgian passport exclusively to enter Israel and travel in Europe and his Iranian passport for visits to Iran). He was extremely cautious and made sure to compartmentalize his contacts with handlers in Tehran.
  3. Iran knew exactly what it was doing -- starting with the type of business that was selected to establish the cover for the espionage, the business contracts that were signed, all the way to the targets that he was given (the American Embassy in Tel Aviv is just one example). Nothing was left to chance. The Iranians operated methodically, sending him on well thought-out and well planned missions. This leads us to believe that Mansouri was not the only agent sent by Iran to spy on Israel. 
  4. The body that usually handles Iranian spies is the country's intelligence ministry, but Mansouri was sent by the Quds Force -- the extraterritorial operational arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. This points to compartmentalization and conduct typical of special operations that involve only a handful of people. It may also point to something else: The Islamic Republic of Iran Intelligence Ministry gathers intelligence, while the Quds Force operates terror networks and orchestrates attacks. Argentina, Thailand, India -- these are only some of the countries where its better-known activities have been exposed, but there are dozens of additional examples that remain under wraps. It stands to reason that when the Quds Force sends a spy on a mission, the intelligence gathered will ultimately be used to perpetrate a terror attack. 
  5. Mansouri visited Israel twice before he was arrested. Ostensibly, this points to a failure in our defenses. In practice, it is hard to say whether he managed to slip through the cracks or whether our security bodies had allowed him to continue his activities in order to gather incriminating evidence against him and possibly let him lead them to his handlers. The dilemma surrounding the timing of an arrest accompanies every intelligence operation. Ironically, in this case, Mansouri was arrested on September 11.
  6. The announcement of the arrest was deliberately timed. During these days of public relations and image wars, Israel pulled out its winning card on Sunday: Iran, the same Iran that has become the world's darling in recent days, is operating spies who are not only running around Tel Aviv but also gathering information on the American Embassy there and taking photographs of its facilities for the purpose of terror. Obviously, the embassy was not the only target photographed, but the release of these particular photos to the media had only one purpose -- to reach the White House.