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October 18, 2013 8:38 am

Did Turkey Stab Israel in the Back by Revealing Spy Ring?

avatar by Steven Emerson

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: World Economic Forum.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdoğan’s hostility toward Israel and embrace of Hamas terrorists are well established. He has called Zionism, the belief in a Jewish state, “a crime against humanity.”

But a report published Wednesday evening by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius raises the question of whether Erdoğan, head of a NATO state, deliberately sabotaged efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program out of spite for Israel.

Erdoğan’s government reportedly gave the Islamic Republic the names of up to 10 Iranians who were meeting Mossad officers inside Turkey last year.

“Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a ‘significant’ loss of intelligence and ‘an effort to slap the Israelis,'” Ignatius reports. “The incident, disclosed here for the first time, illustrates the bitter, multi-dimensional spy wars that lie behind the current negotiations between Iran and Western nations over a deal to limit the Iranian nuclear program. A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.”

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Other Turkish officials have expressed anger about the report, casting themselves as the aggrieved party in an effort to discredit the country.

Israeli officials have not commented.

But veteran Israeli intelligence reporter Yossi Melman writes that the report, if true, exposes “a very egregious – even unprecedented – act. In fact, this is the basest act of betrayal imaginable.” Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told Israel Radio that Iran likely executed those spies that Turkey gave up.

“It’s against all the rules which have existed for many years, the unwritten 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.”

Ignatius, described by Melman as “a journalist who is known to maintain extensive contacts with both the American and Israeli intelligence communities,” reports that Turkey’s Milli Istihbarat Teskilati intelligence service “conducts aggressive surveillance inside its borders, so it had the resources to monitor Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.”

Its director, Hakan Fidan, has close ties with Tehran, Ignatius reports.

Despite all this, U.S. officials seem alarmingly dispassionate about Turkey’s betrayal and the possible damage done in the effort to stop Iran’s march to nuclear weapons capability.

They see the loss of the Iranian spies as unfortunate, Ignatius writes, but “they didn’t protest directly to Turkish officials. Instead, Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants.”

Read Ignatius’s full report here.

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