Turkey dismisses report it exposed Mossad spy ring in Iran

Claim that Ankara deliberately blew cover of Israeli assets ‘is designed to discredit us,’ says FM Davutoglu

Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, addressing a Security Council meeting. (Photo credit: UN Photo by Jenny Rockett)
Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, addressing a Security Council meeting. (Photo credit: UN Photo by Jenny Rockett)

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday dismissed allegations that Turkey last year deliberately exposed to the Iranian authorities a group of up to 10 Iranians working as Mossad “assets.” He claimed the allegation — made in a Washington Post article early Thursday and not denied by Israel — was part of an orchestrated campaign to discredit Turkey.

There have been “various campaigns, both on [an] international and national level,” aimed at the policies of senior government officials, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the Turkish intelligence Hakan Fidan, Today’s Zaman reported Davutoglu as saying.

“There has been a campaign… to discredit our 10-year experience,” Davutoglu said, referring to the decade that Erdogan has been in power. “They wanted to see [the] old Turkey returning back.”

An official from Turkey’s ruling AK Party told Reuters, meanwhile, that the accusation was part of a “deliberate attempt” to undermine Turkey’s growing role in the region, especially in light of the June election of Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency.

“Turkey is a regional power, and there are power centers which are uncomfortable with this,” the official told the news agency. “It’s clear the aim of some is to spoil the moderate political atmosphere after Rouhani’s election … and to neutralize Turkey, which contributes to solving problems in the region and which has a relationship with Iran.”

According to the Washington Post article, the Turkish government in early 2012 blew the cover of several Iranian intelligence assets who had secretly been meeting with Mossad handlers in Turkey, in a move apparently intended to harm Israel.

Quoting “knowledgeable sources,” the story said “deliberate compromise” of Israel’s agents by Erdoğan’s government constituted a “significant” loss of intelligence and can be interpreted as “an effort to slap the Israelis,” for the 2010 Mavi Marmara affair, in which clashes between pro-Palestinian activists and IDF troops aboard the Gaza-bound ship resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, the Post reported.

Ankara disclosed to Tehran’s intelligence organization the identities of “up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers,” the paper’s senior columnist David Ignatius wrote.

In the Washington Post report, Ignatius explained that Ankara knew of the ring of agents in Iran because the Mossad apparently ran “part of its Iranian spy network through Turkey, which has relatively easy movement back and forth across its border with Iran.” Turkish intelligence “conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.”

In Jerusalem Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the report. But former Mossad chief Danny Yatom said that, if the report was true, the incident breached “all the rules... concerning cooperation between intelligence organizations that reveal sensitive information to one another and trust one another not to use that information to harm whoever gave it to them.” No Western intelligence agency would be able to cooperate with Turkey from now on, he added.

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