Israel breaks Iranian spy ring founded through social media

by ian

Ian Patrick, FISM News


Israel’s Shin Bet counterintelligence agency announced on Wednesday that they have foiled an Iranian espionage plot that recruited women via social media to provide information on internal affairs. Four women and one man were charged in the investigation.

The person suspected of being an Iranian intelligence operative was identified on Facebook and WhatsApp as Rambod Namdar. He claimed to be a Jewish man living in Israel and the women he targeted were Israelis of Iranian descent.

According to ABC News, the Shin Bet stated that they “are seeing espionage attempts inside Israel by approaching Israeli women, supposedly innocently, and convincing them to maintain ongoing relationships.”

“Despite the suspects’ own suspicions that the man was an Iranian intelligence operative they decided to maintain the relationships and perform various assignments for him,” The agency added.

Namdar reached out to these women, usually with different requests. One woman was asked to photograph a U.S. diplomatic mission, an office of the Interior Ministry, and a shopping mall.

Shin Bet said this woman’s husband was aware of the correspondence and “suspected that [Namdar] was an Iranian intelligence agent,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Despite this suspicion, her husband still drove her to take a photo of the U.S. diplomatic mission and is considered a suspect in the case.

The Hill reported that another woman was supposedly paid $5,000 in U.S. currency to found “a club for Israelis of Iranian descent” and connect “with members of Israel’s parliament.” She was also asked to put a hidden camera in a “massage room” in her own home, but no further details were provided as to what this request was intended to secure.

Namdar also reportedly tried to encourage these two women to have their sons join Israeli military intelligence and keep in contact with him to fulfill their mandatory services.

A third woman was suspected of handling transactions from Namdar through an Iranian visitor to Israel. The fourth woman and final suspect in the case, was in contact with Namdar for over a year and reportedly received 1,240 Australian dollars for various jobs and charity projects.

The women, three of whom were grandmothers, were reportedly suspicious of the man but still provided him with much of what he requested. A lawyer for one of the women said that Namdar appeared to be a wealthy Israeli based in Tehran and just expressed interest in the nation.

All the women face up to 15 years in prison. A Shin Bet official told the Jerusalem Post that, though these women did not intend to participate in espionage, they “endangered themselves, their family members and innocent Israeli citizens, whose details were passed on to Iranian intelligence, in addition to information passed on about Israeli and American targets in Israel in a way that could be used for terrorist purposes.”