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The spywar’s getting hot in the Middle East

September 3, 2012

While everyone in DC is obsessing about whether Israel “really” means it, this time, about bombing Iran in an October Surprise scenario which might help out Bibi’s old Boston Consulting Group buddy Mitt Romney – hint: we wont know much more until Bibi and Barak take the roadshow to caput mundi later this month for consultations with everybody who’s anybody on the Potomac – the Turks, who are pretty worried by the possibly imminent Iranian bomb too, have actually been getting busy about Iran’s asymmetric threat.

The Erdogan government has suddenly gone very public about the budding spywar between Ankara and Tehran, and the Turkish press is filled with accounts, obviously based on controlled leaks from MIT, the Turkish intelligence service, about all the nasty stuff Tehran’s spooks are up to in Turkey. Last week, MIT announced the roll-up of nine spies, two Iranians and seven Turks, who they said were helping out the PKK, Kurdish terrorists who are Ankara’s arch-nemesis. Turkish sources claim that the nine spies were working for VEVAK, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and were surveilling MIT and Turkish military installations in Southeastern Anatolia on behalf of the PKK. MIT alleges that the spies were part of a major Iranian operation aimed at nothing less than laying the groundwork for a new Kurdish uprising against Turkish rule. Explosive stuff, if true, since Ankara until recently had been happy with the relationship between MIT and VEVAK, which had included intelligence sharing against the PKK.

Ankara is now spreading the word that VEVAK has recently boosted the number of operatives inside Turkey by a hundred, and that they are working under various covers, official and unofficial, all aimed at thwarting Turkish interests in the region, and more nefarious things. If true, this is an ominous development, given the long history of violent Iranian covert operations in the Middle East, including Turkey. Back in March, Turkish security thwarted attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in Istanbul by rolling up four members of the Pasdaran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, who had infiltrated into Turkey for the job. Spies with long memories will recall the 1993 assassination of the prominent Turkish journalist Ugur Mumcu, which MIT blamed on Tehran.

It’s perhaps not a coincidence that CIA director David Petraeus has just arrived in Turkey for a “surprise” visit for consultations with MIT and Turkish partners.

It’s probably also not a coincidence that Yemen this weekend announced the roll-up of an Iranian spy network in their country. The men arrested, four Yemenis, had been surveilling the Saudi consulate in Aden on behalf of VEVAK, which had trained them in Iran.

It’s easy to forget, when viewed from inside the US-Israel bubble, that the Iran confrontation involves many countries. If the Israelis and/or the Americans bomb Iran, the resulting conflict – which will involve a great deal of espionage, sabotage and terrorism by VEVAK, Pasdaran, and their surrogates – will engulf countries across the Middle East and possibly beyond.

The Turks are getting ready … stay tuned.

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