Iranian arrested in Israel on suspicion of espionage

Man was seen photographing US embassy, says he was to be paid $1 million to spy; Jerusalem says arrest is proof Iran is engaged in ‘doublespeak’

Ali Mansouri on the Tel Aviv boardwalk near the US Embassy. (photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)

Ali Mansouri on the Tel Aviv boardwalk near the US Embassy. (photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)

Israeli security officials recently detained an Iranian with Belgian citizenship who officials believe is an agent of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and whose main mission was to spy on American interests inside Israel.

The agent, Ali Mansouri, was arrested at Ben-Gurion International Airport on September 11 by the Shin Bet security service while attempting to depart Israel for Belgium, the security agency said Sunday.

He was traveling under the alias Alex Mans and had been observed photographing the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and recording activity there. He was found with photographs of the US embassy and other sites.

A gag order on the arrest was lifted Sunday morning, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making his way to New York to deliver a speech at the UN widely expected to attempt to refocus world attention on Iran’s nuclear program.

A member of the prime minister’s delegation to New York said Sunday that the arrest was proof that Iranian attempts at detente with the West had not changed its actions on the ground.

“At a time when Iran is trying to get closer to the US, it sent an agent to try to gather intelligence in order to carry out a terror attack against the American Embassy in Israel,” the official said. “This is just one further example of Iran’s policy of doublespeak and further proof that Iran’s words do not match its actions.”

Ali Mansouri, arrested by the Shin Bet on September 11. (photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)

Mansouri said during questioning that he was promised $1 million in exchange for his activities inside Israel, and described how he was recruited by the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

Mansouri’s attorney was quoted by Channel 2 saying that his client’s situation was more complex, but that “he has no agenda against Israel.”

Mansouri has visited Israel several times and was under surveillance by Israeli intelligence. According to the Shin Bet, Mansouri, a businessman, was also looking to establish business interests in Israel that could serve as fronts for Iranian intelligence activities in the Jewish state.

Mansouri left Iran in 1980, lived in Turkey until 1997 and then moved to Belgium on a business visa, where in 2006 he obtained citizenship and changed his name to Alex Mans, the Shin Bet revealed. In 2007, Mansouri returned to Iran and established an international business with interests in Iran, Belgium and Turkey.

One of the companies Mansouri established was called European Folded Glass System, Channel 2 reported. The company’s amateurish website, which states proudly that EFGS is “Big Company in Europe,” is rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Alex Mans is listed as the manager, and a Belgian address and phone number are given on the site.

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