Turkey, Israel foil Iran-led assassination attempt on businessman in Istanbul

CNC Advanced Technology chairman, Yair Geller. (CNC Advanced Technology)
CNC Advanced Technology chairman, Yair Geller. (CNC Advanced Technology)
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Updated 12 February 2022

Turkey, Israel foil Iran-led assassination attempt on businessman in Istanbul

CNC Advanced Technology chairman, Yair Geller. (CNC Advanced Technology)
  • Intelligence agencies work together to save CNC Advance Technologies owner Yair Geller
  • Joint effort comes as Turkey, Israel seek to normalize diplomatic relations

ISTANBUL: Intelligence agents from Turkey and Israel have thwarted an Iran-led plot to kill an Israeli-Turkish tycoon following a monthslong surveillance operation.

The planned victim was Istanbul-based Yair Geller, the 75-year-old owner of CNC Advance Technologies. He was targeted in retaliation for the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020, an act that Tehran considered to be an Israeli operation.

Turkey’s national intelligence agency, MIT, said a nine-person network of hit men tracked Geller for a long time, taking photographs of his daily life, his workplace and his home in Istanbul. The gang used multiple Turkish and Iranian phone numbers to avoid detection.

MIT informed its Israeli counterpart, Mossad, about the gang’s plan before it turned operational and the two sides worked together to move the businessman to a safe house protected by Mossad operatives.

Once Geller was safe, MIT moved in on the hit men and arrested all but one of them. Most are Turkish nationals, but the head of the group is Iranian Saleh Moshtagh Bigohouz. One member of the group, who has close ties to the Iranian intelligence service, remains at large.

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This is not the first time Turkish authorities have foiled such an assassination attempt. In 2009 they prevented a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli target in Turkey by implementing high-security measures in three major cities.

That attack was planned as revenge for the death of Imad Mughniyeh, who was the founding member of Lebanon’s Islamic Jihad organization and No. 2 in Hezbollah’s leadership.

Experts said the timing of the operation to protect Geller was significant as it came amid the discussions between Turkey and Israel to normalize diplomatic relations, adding that Iran might have been motivated to disrupt such talks.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have held four phone conversations this year in an attempt to mend frayed ties, and Herzog is expected to visit Turkey soon.

Dr. Nimrod Goren, president of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence agencies would be beneficial in helping to improve bilateral relations.

“It conveys a message to the Israeli public that Turkey is not in the Iranian camp, that security cooperation between Israel and Turkey is possible and that improved channels between the countries can bring tangible benefits and save lives,” he told Arab News.

One of the topics for rapprochement between the two countries is energy, an industry in which Geller operates.

“Over the last few years, most media reports regarding Israel-Turkey relations carried negative crisis-related news, often portraying Turkey as a security threat to Israel given its ties with Hamas and Iran,” Goren said.

But the Geller story delivered the opposite message, as it portrayed Turkey as a potential security ally, he added.

“In that regard, the successful intelligence cooperation and the fact that it was made visible can help in rebuilding trust, improving perceptions, and preparing public opinion toward a new chapter in Israel-Turkey relations,” Goren said.

Jason M. Brodsky, policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran, agreed that the cooperation between the intelligence agencies represented a gesture by Erdogan ahead of Herzog’s visit.

“Turkish-Israeli relations over the last decade have been fraught, with Turkey reportedly compromising an Israeli intelligence ring working in Iran in early 2012,” he told Arab News.

“This latest episode is an attempt by Ankara to turn the page and build confidence, but there is still a long way to go, especially with curbing Hamas activity inside Turkey. That will test this exercise.”

Iranian operatives have been active on Turkish soil for a long time. They have been involved in several kidnapping and assassination attempts, and have been closely monitored by MIT. Last year, a gang of Iranian spies was captured after being accused of trying to kidnap an Iranian dissident military official.

Another Iranian citizen was arrested last year for helping to plan the assassination of Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani in Istanbul in 2019.

An Iranian cell also attempted to abduct Iranian dissident Shahnam Golshani, leading to another counterintelligence operation by Turkey that led to the arrest of 11 suspects, including an Iranian national.

Brodsky said there had been an uptick in the Turkish government’s disclosure of Iranian intelligence plots in the country in recent years.

“This latest revelation indicates some continued tension with Tehran against the backdrop of gas disputes and other irritants in the bilateral relationship,” he said.

Louis Fishman, associate professor at Brooklyn College, said the foiling of the assassination attempt on Geller in Turkey should not have come as a surprise.

“Turkey maintains strong economic ties with Israel despite the harsh rhetoric of the past between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Erdogan. If Iran had succeeded in carrying out such an act, it would have been seen as a huge failure on the part of the Turkish security forces,” he told Arab News.

The intelligence operation also indicated that cooperation between the security teams was “working at high level,” Fishman said, adding that it was “another sign that Turkey is really serious about jump-starting its relations with Israel in the post-Netanyahu era.

“Such news stories are important in building trust among the Israeli public, which is still quite skeptical of Turkey’s attempts to mend ties. (But) Israeli government members will still want proof that Turkey will curb Hamas activities in Turkey.”


Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis
Updated 59 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis
  • Michel Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October
  • No candidate has emerged as a front-runner among the hopefuls

BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament met Thursday to elect a new president, with no consensus on a successor to outgoing head of state Michel Aoun despite an unpredecedented financial crisis.
Deep divisions among MPs have raised fears Lebanon could be left without a president for months after Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October, further undermining creditor confidence.
The incumbent’s own election in 2016 came after a 29-month vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach consensus on a candidate.
Under Lebanon’s longstanding confessional power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.
No candidate has emerged as a front-runner but among the hopefuls are Aoun’s own son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a former foreign minister who is under US sanctions, and veteran politician Sleiman Frangieh.
Ahead of Thursday’s session, it was not even certain enough MPs would turn up to allow a vote to go ahead but in the event quorum was achieved with 104 members of the 128-seat parliament attending, the state NNA news agency reported.
In the first round of voting, a two-thirds majority of 86 votes is required for a candidate to win, an unlikely feat in a divided legislature.
If the election goes to a second round, the required majority falls to 65, but few expect event that margin to be achieved either, fanning fears for the economy.
“If there is a political vacuum, the economic crisis would intensify and there is a clear risk of security incidents,” said analyst Karim Bitar.
The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value on the black market since 2019 in a financial meltdown branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times.
The crisis has plunged more than 80 percent of the population into poverty, as food prices have risen by 2,000 percent, the United Nations has said.
The international community has pressed Lebanese lawmakers to elect a new president in “timely” fashion to avoid plunging the country deeper into crisis
Last week, France, Saudi Arabia and the United States issued a joint statement urging MPs to “elect a president who can unite the Lebanese people.”
“As Lebanon’s parliament prepares to elect a new president, we stress the importance of timely elections in compliance with the constitution,” the statement said.


Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest
Updated 29 September 2022

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest
  • A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone

BAGHDAD: Four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad on Thursday landed around the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, police said, as political unrest intensified.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes and no claim of responsibility, two police officers said. A number of Shiite Muslim militant groups have offices and supporters in eastern Baghdad.
A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone, and appeared to add a new dimension to a contest among power-hungry politicians.
Rocket attacks on the Green Zone have been regular in recent years but they are normally directed at Western targets by Iran-backed militia groups.
Those attacks have been rare in recent months. Wednesday’s attack took place as parliament was holding a vote to confirm its speaker.
The political crisis has left Iraq without a government for nearly a year after elections last October.
The crisis broadly pits the powerful populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, a political, religious and militia leader, against an array of mostly Iran-aligned political and militant groups.
Sadr, the biggest winner of the election, withdrew all his lawmakers from parliament in June and has sworn not to let parliament convene, fearing other parties will form a government without him.
The standoff spiralled into street clashes killing dozens of people in central Baghdad in August. Many Iraqis fear the same could happen again.


Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets
Updated 29 September 2022

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets
  • Eurofighter Typhoon fleet aims to enhance the combat readiness of the Kuwait Air Force

DUBAI: Kuwait’s military said it received two more Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 jets, making it the third batch out of a total of 28 aircraft the country has ordered, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.
The jets, one of the latest multi-role fighters, characterized by electronic warfare and high-speed response capabilities, aim to enhance the combat readiness of the Kuwait Air Force, the air force said in a statement.
The jets that Kuwait has received so far have achieved 100 flying hours, the statement added.
A ceremony was held at the Ali Al-Salem Al-Sabah Air Base to mark the aircraft’s landing, according to KUNA.


Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region
Updated 29 September 2022

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region
  • Iraq’s state agency reported 58 injuries as a result of the attacks

DUBAI: Yemen’s government has condemned the attacks carried out by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which has seen 13 reported deaths.

Yemen has accused Iran of targeting ‘security and stability in the region in a miserable attempt to create an external crisis for internal reasons’, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement released on state agency SABA.
It also said the Iranian regime ‘seeks to veer attention off the renewing revolution’ by the Iranian people against the government in Tehran.
“In this regard, the Yemeni government is following with great concern the excessive use of force and brutal repression by the Iranian regime against the brotherly Iranian people, and affirms its support for the people and their aspirations to achieve their legitimate rights to freedom, dignity and equal citizenship,” the statement added.
Iraq’s state agency reported 58 injuries as a result of the attacks, which occurred near Irbil and Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iran launched the attacks after the country’s authorities accused armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of being involved in the unrest currently shaking the country, especially in the northwest.


Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’
Updated 29 September 2022

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani’s daughter arrested for ‘inciting riots’
  • Iranian government had been referring to the protests as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them

DUBAI: Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been arrested in Tehran by security forces for ‘inciting riots’ that were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while on police custody.

Before her arrest, Hashemi had said that the Iranian government has been referring to the protests for the past days as ‘riots’ and ‘sedition’ to suppress them, was used as the basis for her detention, news website Radio Farda reported.

Amini, who is Kurdish, was visiting Tehran with her family to visit relatives when she was accosted by the notorious morality police for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code – including wearing of the hijab or head covering – and eventually arrested.

Her relatives claimed the beatings Amini received from the morality police, including a violent blow to the head that caused her death.

“What [authorities] want to convey is that these are not protests, they’re riots, but in fact they are protests,” Radio Farda quoted Hashemi in an audio recording it obtained.

“Those who have seen the protests know that, for example, if the youth set fire to garbage cans, it’s because the [security forces] have used tear gas and they want to neutralize it; or when they beat a member of the security forces it’s because they have been attacked and they’re defending themselves,” she said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of academics issued an open letter urging feminist communities to join them in building transnational solidarity with women and marginalized groups in Iran.

The letter was signed by academics including those from universities in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia who said that the death of Amini was ‘among many other state murders committed systemically and purposefully by the gender-apartheid regime of Iran.’

“This country-wide revolt is against not only the brutal murder of Mahsa but also the essence of the Islamic regime,” the letter said. “The demand is loud and clear: an end to a theocratic regime whose multi-faceted violence against marginalized bodies is manifested in Mahsa’s death.”