2008: Iran has condemned an Iranian
citizen, Ali Ashtari, to death for spying for Israel. Ashtari was arrested 18
months ago, and was accused of attempting to set up connections between people
in Iranian weapons development and nuclear research facilities, with Israeli
intelligence. Israeli denied any connection with Ashtari.
a well deserved reputation for building and maintaining espionage networks in
Moslem nations. The Israelis, naturally, don't like to talk about it. But over sixty
years of this, some details have gotten out.
relies on several basic techniques to carry out this very dangerous business. First,
Israel, being an immigrant nation, has many citizens who once lived among
Moslems. Well, not as many now as did several decades ago. But when Israel was
founded in 1948, many Moslem nations responded by chasing out their Jewish
citizens. Over half a million of those went to Israel, while others scattered
to whatever nation would take them. Not only were these refugees intimately
familiar with the cultures they had been expelled from, many maintained
personal and commercial contacts back there. Israeli intel worked these exiles
for information, as well as suitable candidates for intelligence work. A few of
these were sent back as long term agents, to stay deep undercover, but to quietly
collect whatever information they could. A few of these were caught, but most,
apparently, never were.
used commercial and diplomatic connections to recruit agents among foreign
populations. Even though many of these agents were anti-Semites, they could be
bought for money, or other favors. Israeli recruiters never had to fear a media
bashing back home for working with lowlifes. That's how espionage worked, and
the Israelis would do business with anyone. Some foreign spies did it out of
idealism, but this was rare, and not considered as trustworthy as money. Israel
was not looking for superspies, just lots of little bits of reliable
information. Israeli analysts could put the bits together to create accurate
pictures of what was going on. It wasn't perfect, but the much larger intel
agencies like the CIA and KGB (plus the smaller, but very capable, French,
British and German operations), always had high regard for the Israelis.
because Israel has been under attack constantly for the past sixty years, that
gives its espionage operatives an edge. They are at war, and their work is
literally a matter of national survival. So the idea that Israel got to
Ashtari, a guy who supplied the Iranian military with electronic gear (often
from questionable sources, because of all the embargos), is certainly possible.