News / Middle East

Israeli Military Lifts Veil on Iran Listeners

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan.  5, 2014.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 5, 2014.
Reuters
Iranian-born immigrants to Israel are drafted to its military intelligence units in disproportionately large numbers, an official report said on Thursday, reflecting high demand for Farsi speakers to monitor the Jewish state's arch-enemy.
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees a mortal menace in Iran's disputed nuclear program and has long hinted his country was waging a covert campaign to track and foil it.
 
Those efforts, security sources say, have been stepped up since world powers and Tehran agreed an interim nuclear deal in November. Netanyahu condemned the accord as cover for Iran to pursue projects with bomb-making potential.
 
A story in the official Israeli military journal Bamahane included rare personnel data showing that, enrolling for mandatory national service, one in five Jewish immigrants from Iran go to intelligence units due to their native Farsi.
 
Describing this selection rate as “significantly higher” than the overall average among conscripts from other backgrounds, Bamahane quoted an Iranian immigration organizer as saying Farsi fluency was key.
 
“Bringing Iranian natives with a command of Farsi into the intelligence corps is a priority,” the organizer, Adi Bublil, said. “They have an advantage, as Farsi is not a common language among young men and women in the State of Israel.”
 
Israel's military intelligence corps is well-funded and staffed. Its Unit 8200 specializes in electronic eavesdropping and is often likened to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
 
Military intelligence's civilian Israeli counterpart Mossad is widely assumed to have carried out more aggressive actions like sabotage in Iran, which denies seeking the bomb but whose often secretive nuclear projects stir Western suspicions.
 
According to Bamahane, “dozens” of Iranian-born Jews join the Israeli military each year. Immigration from the Islamic republic - whose Jewish minority numbers around 25,000 - to Israel is conducted discreetly and on a relatively small scale.
 
Last September, Israel's top-rated Channel Two TV aired footage of military intelligence soldiers in a Farsi class.
 
According to that report, Iranian-born troops were included in the language program, which lasts seven months and twins comprehension of technical terms with Farsi songs and Persian folklore designed to improve eavesdroppers' colloquial skills.
 
“We need to know everything [about Iran], from combat doctrines to weaponry to operational routines to slangs and codes,” said the training academy's commander, a lieutenant-colonel whose name was withheld under secrecy regulations.
 
Iran and the European Union were scheduled to resume nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday. The negotiations have been overshadowed by a dispute over advanced Iranian research into centrifuges used to purify uranium.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid