Senior Iranian official tweets in Hebrew on Russia talks

Ali Shamkhani writes about meeting with Moscow counterpart in Hebrew, day after Nikolai Patrushev met with outgoing and incoming Israel national security advisers

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, arrives for a meeting at his office in Tehran, Iran, March 16, 2014. (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, arrives for a meeting at his office in Tehran, Iran, March 16, 2014. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

A senior Iranian official tweeted a message in Hebrew on Wednesday amid high tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran, though the purpose of the message seemingly aimed at Israel was not immediately clear.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, wrote in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Persian about his meeting with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev on Afghanistan.

“An hour ago, in a conversation with my friend colleague Mr. Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, we examined the developments in Afghanistan, Syria and the Persian Gulf,” he wrote.

“Fortunately, the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the #Shanghai_agreement have been removed & Iran’s membership will be [finalized] via official [procedures]. #Good News,” he added in broken Hebrew.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a political, economic and security alliance that currently comprises eight countries — China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

No reason was given for the Hebrew tweet on Wednesday, which proved to be a head-scratcher for some experts.

“Why in Hebrew,” tweeted Henry Rome, a US-based expert on Iran for the Eurasia Group, also in Hebrew.

Petrushov’s meeting with Shamkhani came a day after he sat down with Israel’s outgoing and incoming national security advisers, Meir Ben-Shabbat and Eyal Hulata.

Though not officially mentioned in readouts of the meetings, tensions with Iran were likely high on the agenda in the talks. Some analysts surmised Shamkhani’s tweet may have been a form of one-upmanship regarding ties with Russia.

Shamkhani previously tweeted in Hebrew on two occasions in May, during Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza-based terrorists, though in both cases the tweets related more directly to Israel. On May 12, he called Israel “the spider’s house” and claimed Palestinian rockets had defeated the country.

Four days later, he tweeted in Hebrew that both Israel and US troops in Afghanistan had failed against “the resistance axis,” and called for regional cooperation.

Shamkhani is also seen as closely linked to the Arabic-language Iranian news site Nour News, which publishes news in Hebrew as well.

Israeli officials occasionally post on social media in Persian, either as a way to reach out directly to Iran’s population, or in a bid to troll Tehran.

In 2015, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a Persian-language Twitter account to rail against the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The account has continued to tweet several times daily under current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

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