Reuters reported yesterday that Israeli courts heard the case of an Iranian spy on Monday, which some analysts are suggesting represents an effort by Israel to discredit new relations between Iran and the United States.
The spy has been identified as Ali Mansouri, and he was arrested by Shin Bet security officials on September 11 under suspicion of spying for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Mansouri is a 55-year-old Iranian-Belgian, and it is alleged that he photographed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv while establishing a cover story for espionage activity. Formal charges have not yet been filed.
The case was heard by the court just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to the States to discuss Iranian uranium enrichment programs with the United States.
Israeli officials said to reporters that Mansouri’s picture-taking of the embassy was likely an intelligence-gathering mission “for a possible terror attack.”
Michal Okabi, Mansouri’s lawyer, defended his client by saying, “The apocalyptic picture that the Shin Bet is painting is a lot more complicated and the attempt to claim that our client came here in order to carry out attacks in Israel is far from reality and without foundation.”
A military affairs reporter for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Alex Fishman, wrote that the Shin Bet released the details of Mansouri’s arrest with great haste. “It was not by chance that it was decided in the Prime Minister’s Office to disclose the affair on the eve of [the Prime Minister’s U.S. trip],” he wrote. “Israel is trying to embarrass the Iranians to counter the successful public relations campaign that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waged in the United States last week.”
Reuters did ask the Shin Bet security officials if the announcement of Mansouri’s arrest was influenced by Netanyahu’s trip to the States. Shin Bet declined to comment, but the military affairs correspondent for Israel Radio said that it’s likely the Shin Bet publicized the case “out of a national interest – that is, the prime minister’s trip to the United States and his speech at the General Assembly.”[Image via this YouTube video of the arrested spy]