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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid