News you may have missed #666 (superstition edition)

Gevork VartanianBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Soviet spying legend Gevork Vartanian dies. Legendary Soviet spy Gevork Vartanian, who helped foil Operation LONG JUMP, a Nazi plot to kill the three main Allied leaders in Tehran during World War II, has died in Moscow, aged 87. Operating in Tehran during World War II, he tracked German commandos, including the infamous Nazi operative Otto Skorzeny, who had arrived to attack a summit attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.
►►Turkey arrests ex-armed forces chief over coup charges. Turkish government prosecutors allege that Ilker Basbug, who retired as Turkey’s chief of staff in 2010, led a terrorist organization and plotted to overthrow the government. Remarkably, most English-language sources, including the Financial Times, managed to report Basbug’s arrest without mentioning Ergenekon, the ultra-nationalist network uncovered by Turkish police in 2007, which has resulted in hundreds of arrests, including that of Basbug.
►►Lebanon claims arrest of ‘longtime’ Israeli spy. The Lebanese army has detained a man on suspicion of collaborating for years with Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The man, identified as Elias Younes, is a retired employee of the state telecommunications company Ogero. Hezbollah-affiliated sources said Younes had been dealing with Israel for “over 35 years”. See here if you are wondering where you have heard before about Lebanese telecommunications employees allegedly spying for Israel.

Comment: Drawing Careful Conclusions from the Iran Assassination

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan's carBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org |
The body of Iranian academic Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was still warm when officials in Tehran began accusing Israel and the United States of having planned his assassination. Leveling such accusations without offering adequate proof is certainly unstatesmanlike; but even hasty conclusions can be logical, and even sworn enemies of the Iranian government would find it difficult to point at other possible culprits. Keeping in mind that, at this early stage, publicly available information about the assassination remains limited, are there conclusions that can be drawn with relative safety by intelligence observers? The answer is yes. Roshan, 32, was a supervisor at Iran’s top-secret Natanz fuel enrichment plant. His scientific specialty was in the technology of gas separation, the primary method used to enrich uranium in Iran’s nuclear energy program. His assassination, which took place in broad daylight amidst Tehran’s insufferable morning traffic, was a faithful reenactment of the attacks that killed two other Iranian nuclear scientists in November of 2010. A motorcycle, practically indistinguishable from the thousands of others that slide maniacally between cars in the busy streets of the Iranian capital, made its way to the car carrying Ahmadi-Roshan. As the driver kept his eyes on the road, the passenger skillfully affixed a magnetic explosive device to the outside surface of the targeted vehicle, next to where Ahmadi-Roshan was sitting. By the time the blast killed the scientist, as well as the car’s driver, and injured a third passenger, the motorcyclists were nowhere to be found. Two-and-a-half hours later, when the report of Ahmadi-Roshan’s assassination was making its way through the newsroom of Iran’s state-owned Fars news agency, the assassins were making their way to Dubai, Oman, Qatar, or various other destinations around the Middle East. Read more of this post

‘We killed Iranian scientist’ claims Israel intel source

Daryoush Rezaei

Daryoush Rezaei

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A source in Israeli intelligence has told a quality German newsmagazine that Israel was behind the recent killing of an Iranian physicist in Tehran. The 35-year-old physicist, Darioush Rezaei, was shot twice in the throat on July 23, by two men on a motorcycle, as he and his wife were picking up their four-year-old daughter from kindergarten. Iranian authorities dismissed early reports that Rezaei was a nuclear academic, saying that there had been “some confusion” about the dead man’s identity, and that Rezaei was simply studying for a masters’ degree in electronics. It later became clear, however, that Rezaei’s electronics expertise was in the use of high-voltage switching systems for triggering nuclear warheads explosions. Rezaei was the fourth Iranian physicist or nuclear expert to be assassinated since 2007, after Ardeshire Hassanpour,  Masoud Ali Mohammadi and Majid Shahriari. Another nuclear scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, who was injured in a separate bomb attack on the same day Dr Shahriari was killed, now heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. There is little doubt in intelligence circles that the attacks on the Iranian researchers are part of a wider Western and Israeli covert action program that includes —apart from assassinations— sabotage and cyberwarfare. Now an article in German quality newsmagazine Der Spiegel quotes an unnamed “Israeli intelligence source” as saying that Rezaei’s July 23 assassination “was the first serious action taken by the new Mossad chief Tamir Pardo”. Read more of this post

Iran revises earlier reports of nuclear scientist’s assassination

Daryoush Rezaei

Daryoush Rezaei

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Iran has revised earlier reports of a nuclear scientist’s assassination, saying the murdered man was a university student, and not a nuclear physicist, as it was first announced. On Saturday afternoon, Iran’s government-controlled media began carrying news of the fatal shooting of a man named Darioush Rezaei, in the Iranian capital Tehran. According to early reports, Rezaei, 35, who researched neutron transport at a Tehran university, was identified as “an expert with links to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran”. He was allegedly shot dead in broad daylight by two men on a motorcycle, as he and his wife were returning to their house after picking up their four-year-old daughter from kindergarten. The report, which was first aired by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) was rapidly echoed by other Iranian government-controlled media. Early the next day, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, condemned the attack as a provocation by Israeli and American intelligence agencies, which Iran suspects of being behind a series of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists during the past five years. Later on Sunday, however, a number of Iranian media started withdrawing the reports of Rezaei’s assassination, saying there had been “some confusion” about the dead man’s identity. Eventually it emerged that the man’s full name was Darioush Rezaei-Nejad, and that he was not a career academic nor “a physicist involved in the disputed nuclear program”, but rather an “a university student” studying for a master’s degree in electronics. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #484

  • Analysis: CIA may face reduced role in Pakistan after murder row. People familiar with the views of the Pakistani government say that, as part of the deal for the freeing of CIA operative Raymond Davis, the CIA agreed to give Pakistan more credit for its role in counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, to cut back on US spying in Pakistan and to keep Pakistani authorities better informed of CIA activities.
  • Lebanese Army dismantles Israeli spying device. The Lebanese Army has dismantled an Israeli electronic spy device after receiving a tip-off from members of Hezbollah, according to reports from south Lebanon. This is not the first such reported incident. More pictures of the device are posted here.
  • Exhibition commemorates Soviet spy legend. An exhibition, dedicated to the 100th birth anniversary of legendary Soviet intelligence agent Nikolai Kuznetsov has opened in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. Kuznetsov uncovered German plans to launch a massive tank attack in Ukraine’s Kursk region, as well as an operation to assassinate Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in Tehran in 1943.

Some spy news in the shadow of WikiLeaks’ revelations

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The WikiLeaks revelations continue, and so does the global news storm concerning the whistleblower site. Obviously, the news value of the WikiLeaks disclosures is unquestionable. However, there are notable intelligence-related developments taking place outside the now-familiarWikiLeaks context. Take for instance the recent arrest of what appears to be a Polish spy in Limassol, Cyprus. The unidentified man, who was reportedly detained in the vicinity of a Greek-Cypriot military base on the island, was carrying “a camera containing photos of National Guard posts, a laptop, two mobile phones, five memory cards, a GPS system and three pairs of binoculars”. Another interesting development concerns the arrest on espionage charges of Katia Zatuliveter, a Russian citizen who works as an assistant to British Member of Parliament Mike Hancock. Zatuliveter is expected to be deported on the basis of evidence gathered by MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence service, which has apparently been monitoring her for several months. Interestingly, Mr. Hancock, who is a member of the British House of Commons’ Defence Select Committee, is standing by his assistant. Read more of this post

Blasts target Iranian nuclear scientists, killing one [updated]

Shahriari's car

Shahriari's car

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Teams of unknown assailants chose the first day of the WikiLeaks diplomatic revelations to attack two senior Iranian nuclear scientists in capital Tehran, managing to kill one of them. While the world is preoccupied with the WikiLeaks releases of United States diplomatic cables, two teams of motorcyclists, each consisting of a driver and a backseat rider, targeted the two scientists during the morning rush hour in Tehran, as they were driving to work with their wives in their cars. They attached small bombs to the car windows of their targets and detonated them from a relatively safe distance before speeding away through heavy traffic. The attackers managed to kill Dr. Majid Shahriari, a senior nuclear researcher and prominent professor at the Shahid Beheshti University in the northern suburbs of Tehran, who had taught at the Iranian armed forces’ Supreme National Defense University. Dr. Shahriari’s wife was injured in the attack. A separate bomb attack injured Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi Davan, who also teaches at Shahid Beheshti, and is described in Iranian media reports as “one of a handful of [Iranian] experts who are able to isolate isotopes” for the purpose of manufacturing uranium required for both nuclear energy and weapons. Read more of this post