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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora