Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed to Iranian intelligence the identities of as many as 10 Iranians who had been meeting with their Mossad case officers in Turkey, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported Thursday.
The move was described by “knowledgeable sources” as causing a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.” A Turkish Embassy spokesman had no comment.
Ignatius thinks this was the reason Netanyahu was waiting for so long to apologize to Turkey for the 2010 Gaza flotilla fiasco – he was furious. For more than a year, Bibi had resisted appeals from Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to say I’m sorry to the Turks and bring the feud to an end.
But regardless of the apology, there’s no love lost between Erdogan and Israel. In fact, Israeli intelligence sources have no doubt that Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, is basically an Iranian agent. They’ve described Fidan to CIA officials as “the MOIS (Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security) station chief in Ankara.”
Nevertheless, the United States is still dealing with Fidan on sensitive matters, Ignatius reports. U.S. officials were so sorry to see ten good men die as a result of Erdogan’s treachery, but they didn’t protest to Turkish officials. Turkish-American relations continued warming last year, writes Ignatius, to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants.
The practice of separating intelligence issues from policy issues is supposedly a long-standing U.S. approach. We keep our friends far and our enemies up close. It all makes sense when you think global.
Israeli intelligence had apparently run part of its Iranian spy network through Turkey, Ignatius speculates, saying Turkey has relatively easy movement back and forth across its border with Iran. The Turkish intelligence service, the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, was probably monitoring Israeli-Iranian covert meetings.
The Mossad is probably to blame here, say the Americans, who believe that after more than 50 years of cooperation with Turkey, the Mossad simply couldn’t imagine the Turks would “shop” Israeli agents to a hostile power. So, it turns out the Mossad can also be naïve.
If anyone deserves to find a special surprise in his car one morning, it’s Fidan, the Turkish spy chief. He is a key Erdogan man, who was handed him the MIT in 2010, after serving as a noncommissioned officer in the Turkish army and getting a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a doctorate in Ankara. After Fidan took over the Turkish service, “he rattled Turkey’s allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel,” according to a profile in the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ also mentioned that Fidan was arming jihadist rebels in Syria.