A Belgian-Iranian spy arrested

  • For Israel Iran is as dangerous as ever, even if there is detente with Washington.
  • They are hyping the Belgian-Iranian spy affair as much as possible.

TEL AVIV

By our correspondent

A few hours after Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama met to discuss the Iranian nuclear program, Shabak (the Israeli security service, more commonly known by its acronym “Shin Bet”) announced the arrest on September 11 of a Belgian originally from Iran suspected of working for Tehran’s intelligence service.

The man was arrested at the Tel Aviv airport as he was boarding a plane for Brussels. He was holding a Belgian passport in the name of Alex Mans, 58 years old. In reality his name is Ali Mansouri and he obtained Belgian citizenship through marriage before changing his name.

During his interrogation by the Israeli police’s international investigations unit (Yahbal), he admitted to being recruited in 2007 by the special operations department of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, directed by Kassem Suleimani. In the world of intelligence this service is also called “the Al Quds Department.”

Mansouri also admitted that he was ordered to go to Israel in 2012. He travelled there three times, in July 2012 and January 2013. He presented himself as a businessman specializing in the import and export of windows and PVC materials for the hospitality industry. He formed connections with local business people by, among other methods, showing them several websites touting the merits of his products.

According to some of his Israeli interviewers, overseen by Yahbal and Shabak, the businessman wanted to create SMEs in Israel. According to him, these would serve as cover for his intelligence assignments.

Before and during his time in Israel, the Belgian made several discreet trips to Iran, where he had lived until 1980. Those trips were to meet his handlers who had promised him a million dollars in exchange for his services.

His missions included, among other things, photographing from all angles a series of Israeli strategic objectives such as Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, Israeli army headquarters and the United States Embassy in the heart of Tel Aviv.

“He admits to being ordered to add to a list of vulnerable objectives to be targeted in case of open conflict and said that other Iranian agents are doing the same thing elsewhere,” says a source close to the investigation.

In Tel Aviv Mansouri took photographs several times around the American embassy, which is located on the sea front. He also snapped pictures of this concrete cube from a hotel room overlooking the building’s roof and from a well-known restaurant that has an uninterrupted view on the building’s upper floors.

He also frequented cafés and restaurants near the facility where American diplomats sometimes go to relax after work.

For the time being, the largest part of the Mansouri case remains classified, even though the Belgian ambassador to Tel Aviv and the Belgian foreign affairs minister were quickly informed of the “spy’s” arrest.

Mansouri must now appear before a magistrate who will indict him and keep him under arrest. New details of the case will then be made public.

However the case ends up, Israel is giving maximum exposure to this arrest, since its leaders do not like the diplomatic rapprochement between Washington and Tehran.

In their eyes the ayatollahs “have not changed and remain dangerous for the West,” despite the show of moderation by the new Iranian president, Hassan Rohani. That’s why they are so extravagantly publicizing the fact that the American ambassador was spied on, even if that is just an anecdote from the investigation.

Prior to Mansouri, Shabak has arrested other presumed Iranian agents, but Israeli political leaders did everything they could to keep those affairs quiet. In those cases the political situation was not advantageous, and those arrested were Israeli Arabs. Two of them, known by the code names “Zinali” and “Tikawi” were arrested in 2007, when Mansouri was recruited by Tehran, and they have since disappeared from view with no one knowing what happened to them.

SERGE DUMONT

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