Iran scoffs at Netanyahu’s claim Israeli agents operate in its country

Official says PM’s ‘delusional remarks’ are due to pressure stemming from arrest of former Israeli minister for spying for Tehran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 19, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem on December 19, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An Iranian intelligence official on Thursday rejected claims by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israeli spies regularly visit the country to keep an eye on its nuclear program, and claimed Tehran’s agents had widely infiltrated the Jewish state’s own intelligence services.

The director general for counter-espionage at the Iranian Intelligence Ministry told the semi-official ISNA news agency that Netanyahu made the “delusional remarks” to save face over the arrest of a former Israeli minister suspected of spying for Iran.

Netanyahu, the official said, “has come under the most intense internal and foreign pressure due to leaks about an Israeli minister spying for Iran as well as the large-scale infiltration of the Zionist regime’s intelligence services by those of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The official was apparently referring to Gonen Segev, a former energy and infrastructure minister who was arrested in May and extradited from Equatorial Guinea to Israel on suspicion that he supplied Iran with information, including details about energy infrastructure.

He allegedly met with Iranian intelligence officials repeatedly over the past six years, supplying the Iranians with information. Segev denies working against Israel’s interests.

Gonen Segev, a former Israeli government minister indicted on suspicion of spying for Iran, is seen in the District Court in Jerusalem, July 5, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)

In August Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi told ISNA that “You have recently heard that we brought under our control a member of a cabinet of a powerful country.” Although he didn’t specify which country he was referring to, his remarks were taken as a first admission of ties to Segev.

The Iranian official claimed on Thursday that Netanyahu had ordered the Shin Bet security service to review all political, parliamentary and intelligence officials for any contact with Iranian intelligence.

“This order is indicative of the realities that requires no explanations,” the official said.

On Sunday Netanyahu told a group of diplomats that Israeli agents continue to operate inside Iran as part of Israel’s efforts to thwart the nuclear ambitions of the Islamic republic.

“We are fighting all over the world in regards to Iran’s nuclear program,” he said at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

“We also visit there periodically… to ‘catch up,’” Netanyahu added without giving specific details.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with foreign diplomats, December 16, 2016 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the US-led nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers in 2015 that lifted painful economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Israel has admitted to covert operations inside Iran to thwart its nuclear program and undermine the agreement.

In April, Israel announced it had smuggled out of Iran more than 100,000 documents from a Tehran archive detailing the country’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu said at the time that the cache proved that Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons program before signing the nuclear agreement. Iran has not acknowledged the alleged seizure.

In September, Netanyahu in an address at the UN General Assembly revealed what he said was a “secret atomic warehouse” outside Tehran, which contained nuclear materials that Iran was not allowed to posses without declaring them to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Both the archive and warehouse, he said in his UN speech, were proof that Iran had not given up its nuclear program.

The Segev spying case is ongoing.

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