Israeli officials over the weekend released details regarding the arrest of an Iranian-Belgian citizen accused of conducting extensive espionage against Israeli and American targets inside the Jewish state, deepening concerns regarding the scope of Iranian terror networks and the sophistication of Iranian tradecraft.
Ali Mansouri, in his mid-50s, was arrested on September 11 at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport, the Shin Bet intelligence service said in a statement. The Shin Bet said the Iranian-born Mansouri had legally changed his name in Belgium to Alex Mans and used his Belgian passport to enter Israel. It said he was recruited as a spy by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and had visited Israel twice before his arrest. Photographs which the Shin Bet said Mansouri had in his possession, and which it released along with the statement, included one taken of the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv from a nearby high-rise balcony.
Veteran Israeli military correspondent Yoav Limor unpacked six lessons to be drawn from the incident, beginning with the observation that “Iran followed the playbooks of the most advanced intelligence agencies in the world” and had recruited “a quality asset” who had undergone “prolonged training (more than a year) that included various methods of intelligence gathering, with an emphasis on photography.” Limor also noted that “Mansouri was sent by the Quds Force… [which] operates terror networks and orchestrates attacks,” and so “it stands to reason that when the Quds Force sends a spy on a mission, the intelligence gathered will ultimately be used to perpetrate a terror attack.” Washington Institute senior fellow Matt Levitt has become increasingly vocal in calling attention to what he last April termed a “return to tradecraft” by Iran and the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah. Levitt had previously described efforts by the Quds force to engage in “large-scale campaigns… to carry out acts of violence targeting not only Israel but also U.S. and other Western interests.” A State Department report published in June described Iranian-backed terrorism as having reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s.
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