Israel beefs up protection of its senior spies, as proxy war with Iran intensifies

Iran UAV droneISRAELI AUTHORITIES HAVE STEPPED up measures to protect its senior intelligence and security figures, over concerns they may be targeted by agents of the Iranian state, according to news reports. The news comes amidst widespread concerns that the ongoing shadow conflict between Israel and Iran is escalating in the shadow of the Russo-Ukrainian war.

On Thursday, Israel’s state-owned broadcaster and news agency, Kan, reported that  the government of Israel had implemented additional security measures to protect current and former members of its security and intelligence agencies. The report added that the measures are focused largely on current and former members of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, as well as those associated with Israel’s intelligence and security apparatus that are living abroad.

The report comes amidst concerns among security observers that a clandestine war between Israel and Iran is growing in intensity. To a notable extent, this growth is being fueled by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Iran’s supply of cheap and reliable attack drones appears to be enabling Moscow to subvert and outright destroy Ukraine’s national infrastructure. In what seems like a direct response to Iran’s actions, Israel war materiel is now flowing into Ukraine, reportedly through a NATO country.

There are indications that this proxy conflict between Israel and Iran is spreading in Europe and the Middle East. Seeing the success of the use of Iranian drones, some European countries with limited airstrike capabilities, like Serbia and Armenia, are reportedly considering purchasing drone attack systems from Tehran. Meanwhile, Israeli weapons exports to Arab states have skyrocketed since the normalization of Israel’s relations with a number Arab countries in recent years. According to a recent report, last year marked a historic record for the volume of Israeli military and security exports, which increased by 30 percent from 2020. Much of that increase is due to Israeli weapons exports to Arab states, such as Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 November 2022 | Permalink

Reuters investigation focuses on alleged loss of CIA spy networks in Iran

US embassy IranA YEAR-LONG INVESTIGATION by the Reuters news agency attempts to shed light on the alleged arrests of more than a dozen Iranian spies, who claim to have worked for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Periodically Iran claims to have captured members of alleged CIA spy rings operating across its territory. For instance, in 2019 Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence announced the arrest of a “CIA network” consisting of 17 individuals who worked in the private sector and a number of government agencies.

The news agency said two of its reporters, Joel Schectman and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, spent dozens of hours interviewing six Iranian former CIA assets, as well as 10 former employees of the United States Intelligence Community, who have “knowledge of Iran operations”. All six of the Iranians interviewed spent between five and 10 years in prison for their CIA connections. Two of them left Iran after serving their prison sentences, and are now refugees in central and northern Europe. At least one of them claims he was never contacted by the CIA after his release in 2019.

According to the Reuters investigation, CIA assets in Iran operate in a high risk environment, given that the United States has not had diplomatic facilities in the Middle Eastern country since 1979. Diplomatic facilities are regularly used to shelter CIA personnel, who recruit, train and handle foreign assets. Despite the absence of such facilities, the CIA is willing to take great risks in running agents inside Iran, because of the country’s geopolitical significance. The agency’s intensity in operating in Iran is matched by the Islamic Republic’s aggressive counterintelligence posture, which, according to the Reuters investigation, has “netted dozens of CIA informants” in recent years.

It is claimed that Iran’s counterintelligence efforts were inadvertently aided by a mass-produced CIA covert communications system, which the spy agency operated until 2013 in at least 20 countries around the world, including Iran. The Internet-based system was intended for use by CIA sources who were not fully vetted, but were still considered useful due to their access to secret information, according to Reuters. This appears to be a major update on a story that was first reported by Yahoo News in 2018. It claimed that that the CIA had suffered a “catastrophic” compromise of the system it used to communicate with spies, which caused the death of “dozens of people around the world” according to sources.

Reuters said it contacted CIA spokeswoman Tammy Kupperman Thorp, who declined to comment on specific allegations. The CIA spokeswoman dismissed the “notion that CIA would not work as hard as possible to safeguard” its assets around the world as “false”. The news agency said it also contacted Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Mission to the United Nations in New York, but received no responses.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 October 2022 | Permalink

Many see Israel behind May 22 killing of Iranian paramilitary leader in Tehran

IRGC IranA GROWING NUMBER OF security observers point to Israel as the most likely culprit behind the assassination of a leading member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s powerful paramilitary force. Brigadier General Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, who was killed in broad daylight in Tehran on May 22, served as deputy director of the Quds Force, a major branch of the IRGC. The mission of the Quds Force is to carry out unconventional warfare, especially in support of IRGC operations against adversaries abroad.

Observers regularly describe the IRGC as a ‘praetorian guard’ that operates inside Iran’s governing apparatus. Today the IRGC is a military force with a command structure that is distinct from Iran’s regular Armed Forces. It maintains its own army, navy and air force, has its own paramilitary and political protection units, and oversees Iran’s nuclear program. The IRGC’s weapons development falls under the duties of the Quds Force, in which Khodaei was a leading figure. He was also known to have been closely mentored by IRGC Commander Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in 2020.

Kodaei was assassinated in broad daylight on May 22, as he was heading home from his office in downtown Tehran, located a few blocks from the main building of Iran’s Consultative Assembly. According to eyewitness reports, Kodaei’s vehicle was rapidly approached by two individuals riding on a motorbike. They sped away seconds after shooting Kodaei five times, killing him almost instantly. The entrance to the street where Kodaei was attacked was allegedly blocked by a white van, which also sped away following the shooting.

Israel is known for carrying out assassinations of Iranian officials using motorbikes, which can move with relative ease in the congested streets of Tehran. IntelNews regulars will recall that Israeli intelligence claimed last month to have detained and interrogated an alleged Iranian assassin named Mansour Rasouli. A video of his alleged testimony emerged, which was reportedly filmed at a Mossad safehouse somewhere in Iran. Meanwhile, Kodaei’s assassins remain at large.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 May 2022 | Permalink

Mossad allegedly uncovered Iranian plot to kill Israeli, American officials abroad

Israeli consulate Istanbul TurkeyISRAEL’S MOSSAD INTELLIGENCE AGENCY allegedly foiled a plot by Iranian intelligence to send assassins abroad and kill an Israeli diplomat, an American military official and a French reporter, according to reports. The information about the alleged plot first surfaced late last week in the Iran International News Channel, a British-based Iranian news agency, which is opposed to the government in Tehran. The news agency claimed that the plot had been organized by the Quds Force, the paramilitary wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Shortly after news of the alleged plot emerged, Israeli media reported the existence of a video of an Iranian man who identifies himself as Mansour Rasouli (or Rassouli). In the video, the man claims to be a member of Unit 840, the part of the Quds Force that plans and executes operations overseas. He also claims that he was paid $150,000 to plan the assassination of an Israeli consular official in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as an American military general stationed in Turkey. A third target for assassination was a Jewish French journalist. The names of the alleged targets are not known. He adds that he had planned to carry out the assassinations with the use of networks of drug smugglers.

Rasouli then claims that the Quds Force had promised to pay him an additional $1 million following the successful conclusion of the assassinations. Toward the end of his statement, Rasouli says he had made an “error of judgment” in agreeing to participate in the operation, and promises to refrain from targeting individuals for assassination in the future. According to Iran International, Rasouli’s interview was filmed by officers of the Mossad in Turkey, where he was allegedly captured before he was able to execute the first of the planned assassinations. However, Israeli media later claimed that the Mossad officers filmed the interview in Iran, during a covert operation that resulted in the capture and interrogation of Rasouli.

IntelNews readers will recall that, in October of last year, Israel accused Iran of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in Cyprus. The accusation came after the arrest of an Azeri national, who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. A year earlier, it was reported that American intelligence agencies had uncovered an Iranian plot to kill the United States’ ambassador to South Africa, in an effort to avenge the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by the United States in January of 2020.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 May 2022 | Permalink

FBI arrests two men who tried to influence Secret Service agents – motive unknown

Jill and Joe BidenTHE FEDERAL BUREAU OF Investigation arrested two men on Wednesday, who allegedly tried to influence four agents of the United States Secret Service with money and gifts, according to an affidavit. The men were identified on Thursday as Haider Ali, 36, and Arian Taherzadeh, 40. Both are United States citizens and residents of Washington, DC. On the same day, FBI personnel searched five apartments and a number of cars that belong to the two men.

According to the FBI, in February of 2020 the two men began posing as employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At around the same time, they began telling people they knew that they were involved in undercover investigations. After the United States Capitol attack of January 6, 2021, they told neighbors they had been tasked with uncovering the identities of participants in the attack. The FBI alleges that the two men spent thousands of dollars on buying equipment that would help them pass for DHS employees, including a black sports utility vehicle equipped with emergency lights. They had also rented several apartments in Washington, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Eventually they became friendly with four Secret Service agents, one of whom served on the protection detail of Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of President Joe Biden. They gradually began giving their Secret Service agent friends gifts, including a flat screen television, a power generator, as well as “law enforcement paraphernalia”.

The FBI has not provided a motive for the activities of the two men, saying only that the investigation into their activities is “ongoing”. According to the New York Times, Ali told witnesses he was connected to the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, which is the primary intelligence agency of Pakistan. It is also believed that Ali’s passport contains a number of entry visas issued by Pakistani and Iranian authorities, the paper said.

The two men appeared on Thursday at a court hearing in Washington, via videoconference. They are scheduled to attend a detention hearing later today. Meanwhile, the Secret Service agents who were befriended by the two suspects have been placed on administrative leave, according to a Secret Service spokesperson. The investigation into the case continues.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 April 2022 | Permalink

Iranian websites use fake Israeli contact data to lure spies, researchers claim

Computer hackingA NUMBER OF WEBSITES sponsored through Google Ads, which seek to hire Iran and Hezbollah experts for “research and consultancies” in Israel, are part of an Iranian counterintelligence program, according to observers. The investigative news website Daily Beast said on Monday it discovered at least 16 such websites, all of which appear to employ the same language, visuals, as well as telephone numbers with Israeli area codes.

The websites’ stated purpose is to employ individuals with inside knowledge of Iranian intelligence and security, as well as individuals with a background in Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The prospective employers claim to be Israeli “consultancy” firms, with names such as “VIP Human Solutions”. The latter describes itself as a “VIP center for recruitment of the most distinguished in the military and security services of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon”, according to the Daily Beast.

The websites feature Israeli flag visuals, and claim to be associated with recognizable think-tanks and media organizations, including the Gatestone Institute, the Begin-Sadat Center, the Jerusalem Post and Business Insider. However, these purported connections appear to be fictitious and to be designed to give those websites an air of legitimacy. In reality they appear to be hosted by an obscure Bulgarian web hosting company. At times they disappear, but then reappear under a different title and domain name. The oldest among them has been active for just over four years.

The Daily Beast cites a number of Iran observers, as well as intelligence insiders in the United States and elsewhere, who claim that the websites are part of a sting operation by Iranian counterintelligence. They share a number of “behavioral similarities” to prior phishing campaigns perpetrated by hacker groups with documented links to Iranian intelligence agencies, according to the Daily Beast. The purpose of the websites is to lure unsuspecting Iranian and Lebanese nationals who aspire to provide information to Israel in exchange for money, according to the report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2022 | Permalink

Israel busts alleged Iranian spy ring made up of middle-aged women

Shin BetAUTHORITIES IN ISRAEL CLAIM they busted a ring of spies for Iran, which was composed solely of middle-aged Jewish women. The Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, said on Thursday that it had arrested four Jewish women, all of them Iranian-born Israeli citizens. The four women were charged with espionage against the state of Israel. The Shin Bet described the case as “serious” and as part of a broader plan by Iran to build a sophisticated espionage network inside the Jewish state.

According to news reports, the women were recruited via the Facebook social networking platform by a user using the name Rambod Namdar. Namdar claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran. After recruiting the women, Namdar operated as their handler, and provided them with regular payments in exchange for taking photographs of sensitive military sites and civilian government buildings. According to the Shin Bet, these included the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The women were allegedly also asked to take photographs of the embassy of the United States, as well as commercial facilities, including shopping malls.

At least two of the women were asked to befriend Israeli politicians and government officials, according to the Shin Bet. The agency also claims that the women were asked to convince their sons to serve their mandatory military service by joining military intelligence units. In one case, according to the indictment, the son of one of the women did serve in an intelligence post in the Israeli military, which allowed his mother to pass a number of military documents to her Iranian handler.

Reports in the Israeli media and the BBC mention that Namdar communicated with the four women “for several years” using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 January 2022 | Permalink

Israeli ex-intelligence chief claims Israel had role in top Iranian general’s killing

Qasem SoleimaniTHE RECENTLY RETIRED DIRECTOR of Israel’s military intelligence agency has claimed in an interview that Israel had a role in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani was arguably Iran’s most revered military official. He was killed by an American targeted drone strike on January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq. The same missile strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded the Popular Mobilization Committee, an umbrella organization composed of around 40 pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. The then-American president, Donald Trump, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the months that followed Soleimani’s assassination, Iranian state media claimed that the operation that targeted the IRGC had been aided with intelligence and logistical support by the governments of several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon. Meanwhile, reports by Western media alleged that “[i]ntelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of Soleimani’s whereabouts shortly before he was assassinated. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims.

Now, however, it appears that a recently retired Israeli general, who headed the country’s military intelligence agency during Soleimani’s assassination, has claimed partial responsibility for his killing. According to the Associated Press, Major General Tamir Heyman, who until October of this year headed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, has become “the first official to confirm Israel’s involvement” in the controversial assassination.

Heyman is believed to have given an interview in late September to Mabalat Malam, the Hebrew-language magazine of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, which is seen as closely affiliated with the Israeli intelligence community. In the interview, which is available in the current issue of the magazine, Heyman says that “Assassinating Soleimani was an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians”. He adds that Soleimani’s killing was one of “two significant and important assassinations during my term” as head of army intelligence.

The Associated Press is among a number of news agencies that reached out to the IDF for clarification about Heyman’s comments. As of Tuesday night, the IDF had not responded to several requests for comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 December 2021 | Permalink

Israeli Mossad targeted Iran nuclear plant with three-pronged assault, report claims

Natanz Iran

THE NATANZ ENRICHMENT FACILITY, which lies at the heart of the Iranian nuclear program, has repeatedly been the target of a multi-pronged sabotage operation by Israeli intelligence, according to a new report. The existence of the hardened fuel enrichment plant near the city of Natanz, in Iran’s Esfahan Province, was first acknowledged in 2002, when it was revealed by an Iranian whistleblower. In July 2020 and April 2021, Iranian authorities acknowledged that the facility had suffered major damage, reportedly due to acts of sabotage.

New a new report, published on Thursday in the London-based journal The Jewish Chronicle, claims that the Israeli agency Mossad was behind the sabotage in Natanz, which allegedly destroyed 90 percent of the plant’s nuclear centrifuges. The journal said that a team of over 1,000 technicians, intelligence analysts and operations officers was behind the attacks. The latter were carried out in a variety of ways that included infiltrating supply chains, recruiting Iranian scientists, and deploying a so-called suicide drone.

According to the The Jewish Chronicle, in 2019 the Mossad managed to infiltrate the supply chains used by Iran to build additions to several buildings and underground facilities in Natanz. Consequently, Israeli intelligence operatives posing as construction material wholesalers were able to supply building materials to Iranian government officials, which were “filled with […] explosives”. These were detonated remotely in July 2020, causing substantial damage to the nuclear plant.

At around the same time, Mossad officers posing as Iranian dissidents began recruiting Iranian scientists working at Natanz. The Chronicle cites an unnamed source who says that “the scientists’ motivations were all different” and that the Mossad offered each of them “what they deeply wanted in their lives”. The Mossad supplied the recruited scientists with explosives, which were dropped into the Natanz compound by drones, or smuggled inside boxes of catering supplies. The bombs were “remotely set off” in April 2021 and almost completely destroyed Natanz’s A1000 underground centrifuge hall, which is buried beneath 12 meters of reinforced concrete. Following the attack, 10 Iranian scientists were “spirited away to a safe location. All of them are safe today”, according to the unnamed source.

Two months later, a third attack was carried out, this time against a manufacturing facility of the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company in the city of Karaj, which is located 30 miles northwest of the Iranian capital Tehran. The attack was reportedly carried out with the use of a loitering munition —also known as a suicide drone— the size of a motorcycle. Mossad operatives had previously managed to smuggle the device into Iran in small components, which were then re-assembled.

The Chronicle reports that the attacks against the Natanz nuclear plant were carried out by Israeli spies without the participation of American intelligence agencies. The journal also claims that Israel recently put in motion “a new policy of launching covert attacks on Iranian soil in retaliation for its meddling in the region”. This means that “further undercover operations [inside Iran] are in the pipeline”, the report concludes.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 November 2021 | Permalink

Sweden arrests second suspect in high-stakes espionage case involving Iran

Säpo sweden

AUTHORITIES IN SWEDEN HAVE arrested a second suspect in an espionage case that appears to implicate Iranian agents operating inside some of the most secretive units of Swedish civilian and military intelligence. The most recent arrest was announced on Tuesday with statement by the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO), which said that an individual had been arrested in “central Sweden”.

The statement gave no further information about the suspect’s identity, but said that the suspect had been charged with “aggravated espionage”. It added that the arrest was connected with “a similar case” that led to an arrest of an intelligence officer in September, also connected to espionage. The “similar case” mentioned in the statement refers to the arrest of Peyman Kia, a senior civil servant and former intelligence officer, who was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on September 20 of this year.

Kia is believed to have been an officer in SÄPO, as well as in the Office for Special Information Gathering (KSI) of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST). The KSI is reportedly among the most sensitive branches of the MUST. According to a number of reports in the Swedish media, Kia is of Iranian origin and is accused of having provided Iran with intelligence information. Specifically, he is “suspected of having committed serious crimes against the security of the Swedish state during the period 2011–2015”, according to reports.

The most recent arrest is reportedly directly connected with that of Kia. Swedish counterintelligence officials have described these cases as “complex”, adding that they have been “working on them for a long time”. If the charges hold in court, it will make this the first espionage affair affecting an employee of SÄPO since 1979.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 November 2021 | Research credit: A. | Permalink

Norway charges former Iranian diplomat in 1993 assassination attempt

William NygaardTHE GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY has pressed charges against two men, among them a former diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Oslo, for the attempted murder of a high-profile Norwegian publisher in 1993. The case centers on an attempt against the life of William Nygaard, a Norwegian publisher and former director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1989 Nygaard was behind the publication of the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. The bestselling novel was condemned as blasphemous by conservative Muslims, due to its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. In the spring of 1989, Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) sentencing to death the novel’s author and all those who had a role in publishing the book, and urging followers of Islam to execute them at will. Nygaard began receiving threats almost immediately, and was given police protection for almost a year.

On the morning of October 11, 1993, Nygaard was shot and left for dead outside his house in the northern outskirts of Oslo. He survived after being rushed to the hospital, where he remained for several months during what became a long and painstaking period of recovery. The police was unable to find the culprits of the attempted murder, and the investigation stalled after a few years, as it was unclear whether the motives were political or personal. Nygaard consistently argued that the attempt on his life was politically motivated.

Nygaard’s claims were revived in 2018, when the Norwegian Police Service said it had pressed charges against two individuals for the attempted murder of the publisher. No information was publicized about the identities of the two suspects. However, a clue emerged when a spokeswoman for Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said that the incident “was about more than an attack on one man” and represented “a violent attempt to shut down free speech”.

Since then there have been rumors about the identities of the two suspects. Last week, Iranian dissidents living abroad began claiming that one of the men was a Lebanese national, and the other a retired Iranian diplomat. On Friday, a report by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company stated that the Iranian former diplomat in question is Mohammad Nik-Khah. The report added that Nik-Khah served as first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Norway when Nygaard was shot, and that he now lives in Iran.

Over the weekend, a press statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Oslo confirmed that Nik-Khah served as a diplomat there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the statement claimed that Nik-Khah had left Norway several days prior to the attempted killing of Nygaard.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 November 2021 | Research credit: LCP | Permalink

Iran denies murder plot after alleged assassin caught with gun and silencer in Cyprus

Nicosia Cyprus

ISRAEL HAS ACCUSED IRAN of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in the Republic of Cyprus, following the arrest of a man who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. The man reportedly entered Cyprus on a flight that landed at Larnaca International Airport last week. He is believed to be a 38-year-old Azeri national, who allegedly entered Cyprus using a Russian passport.

Cypriot police kept tabs on the suspected assassin as soon as he entered Cyprus, according to reports. IntelNews hears that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad may have been behind a tip given to the Cypriots about the man’s presence on the island. In the days following his arrival, the suspect crossed several times into the Turkish-occupied northern region of Cyprus, using his Russian passport and “trying to keep a low profile”, according to Israeli media reports.

The Azeri man was eventually arrested in Nicosia, shortly after entering from northern Cyprus at the Agios Dometios checkpoint. Some local news reports suggest that he was found to be carrying a gun fitted with a silencer, and that he was planning to target a number of prominent Israeli business people who live on the island. Reports in Israel claim that the alleged assassin’s primary target was Teddy Sagi, an Israeli investor who owns online gambling platforms, as well as properties in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. He is believed to be among Israel’s richest citizens.

Iran has vehemently denied Israel’s claim that Cypriot police averted “an act of terror [that] was orchestrated by Iran against Israeli business people” in Cyprus. However, the Israeli government’s announcement did not go into details, while Israeli officials refused to confirm that Teddy Sagi was the target of the alleged operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 October 2021 | Permalink

Israel killed Iranian nuclear scientist using advanced robotic device, report claims

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

ISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, assassinated the lead military scientist behind Iran’s nuclear program using a remote-controlled robot, according to a new report. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite paramilitary force. He was assassinated along with his wife on November 27, 2020, in an armed assault that took place in the eastern outskirts of Tehran. The attack, which lasted no more than 3 minutes, took place in broad daylight. No arrests have been made in connection with the killings.

Shortly after Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Iranian authorities claimed that the Mossad had orchestrated his killing, and Iranian media carried reports about the alleged identities of the killers. But in February of this year, the London-based weekly newspaper The Jewish Chronicle claimed that the Mossad had killed the IRGC general using a “one-ton remote-controlled gun smuggled into Iran piece by piece over eight months”. There has been no confirmation of that report, and the details behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing remain vague.

On Saturday, however, an article by The New York Times’ Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi supported the view that the Fakhrizadeh was killed by a remote-controlled advanced robotic device. According to the new report, the apparatus had been fitted by Mossad operatives into the bed of a blue Zamyad, a popular Iranian-built Nissan pickup truck model. A Belgian-made FN MAG 7.62-mm machine gun was hidden beneath decoy construction material and a heavy tarpaulin, said the article. It repeated the The Jewish Chronicle’s claim that the device had been smuggled into Iran by Mossad operatives in pieces, over an extensive period of time.

According to Bergman and Fassihi, Fakhrizadeh’s assassins operated remotely, and there was no Mossad hit squad on the ground in Tehran when the assassination occurred. In fact, the Mossad team that installed the advanced robotic apparatus “had already left Iran” by the time the trigger was pulled. Artificial intelligence was employed to ensure that the remote sniper’s actions were successful. However, the explosives that were meant to destroy the apparatus following Fakhrizadeh’s assassination partly malfunctioned, thus allowing the Iranians to access the partly damaged vehicle, machine gun and control mechanism, said the Times.

In an article published late on Saturday, Israeli English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post said it was in a position to “confirm the accuracy of the Times report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 September 2021 | Permalink

Israel has drastically curtailed intelligence-sharing with the US, report claims

Natanz Iran

THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL scaled back significantly intelligence cooperation with the United States in January of this year, following the change of guard in the White House, according to The New York Times. In an article published on Thursday, the paper cited several unnamed Israeli and American sources in claiming that the Israeli administration of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu limited its intelligence relationship with Washington almost as soon as Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States.

According to the report, the Israelis decided to scale back intelligence-sharing with Washington in order to keep the Biden administration in the dark about the latest developments in the Iranian nuclear program. Following the demise of much of its intelligence network in Iran in 2019, the United States relies heavily on Israeli intelligence when it comes to following developments inside Iran, said The Times. The hope in Israel is that, by denying the Biden administration information about developments inside Iran, Israel can prevent the White House from making drastic changes to former President Donald Trump’s policy on Iran.

To illustrate its claim, the paper referred to the sabotage attack against Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant in April of this year, which has been widely attributed to Israel. According to the report, the Israelis gave the White House two hours’ notice of the plan, which was allegedly a deliberate attempt to prevent Washington from assessing the operation, and potentially pressuring Israel to cancel it.

American sources told The Times that the move by the Netanyahu administration had its roots in the bad blood between it and the administration of US President Barack Obama, who spearheaded the now-defunct nuclear deal with Iran. Additionally, American officials told the paper that the change of policy on intelligence-sharing by the Israeli government represented a violation of “a longstanding, unwritten agreement to at least advise the United States of covert operations” and giving Washington an opportunity to challenge specific courses of action.

But Israeli officials who spoke to the paper said that the reason why Washington was not given earlier notice about the attack on the Natanz nuclear plant was because of fears that it would be leaked. United States officials have leaked information before about pending Israeli covert operations, according to the Israelis. The report also suggested that the American and Israeli governments have tried to reset their intelligence relationship since the Natanz operation, but relations remain tense.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 August 2021 | Permalink

Iranian hackers used Gmail, Facebook, to spy on US aerospace contractor

Computer hacking

A GROUP OF HACKERS, who are known to operate under the direction of the Iranian government, used fictitious Gmail and Facebook accounts to compromise employees of a United States defense contractor. A report issued on Monday by the California-based cybersecurity company Proofpoint identified the hackers behind the espionage campaign as members of a group codenamed Threat Actor 456 (TA456).

Known also as Imperial Kitten and Tortoiseshell, TA456 has a history of pursuing espionage targets at the direction of the Iranian government. According to Proofpoint, TA456 is among “the most determined” Iranian-aligned threat actors. The cybersecurity firm adds that the espionage activities of TA456 often target Western “defense industrial base contractors” that are known to specialize in the Middle East.

The most recent operation by TA456 involved a fictitious online personality that went by the name “Marcella Flores”, also known as “Marcy Flores”, who claimed to live in the British city of Liverpool. The group used a Gmail account and fake Facebook profile to reinforce the fictitious profile’s credibility, and to approach employees of United States defense contractors. One such employee began corresponding with Flores on Facebook toward the end of 2019.

In June 2021, after having cultivated the relationship with the defense employee for over a year, Flores sent the employee a link to a video file, purportedly of herself. The file contained a malware, known as LEMPO, which is designed to search targeted computers and provide the hacker party with copies of files found on penetrated systems.

Facebook is apparently aware of the espionage campaign by TA456. Last month, the social media company said it had taken action “against a group of hackers in Iran [in order] to disrupt their ability to use their infrastructure to abuse [Facebook’s] platform, distribute malware and conduct espionage operations across the internet, targeting primarily the United States”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 August 2021 | Permalink

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