The Shin Bet and Israeli police carried out the investigation after suspecting several Israeli citizens had been in contact with an Iranian intelligence agent, believed to be Rambud Namdar. Namdar was recruiting the Israelis to carry out several missions within Israel.
Namdar had said on Facebook that he was a Jew living in Iran. Each of his four Israeli recruits was living in the center of Israel. According to the Shin Bet, Namdar requested that the recruits contact him through video chats on WhatsApp instead of through his Facebook account.
The Shin Bet was praised by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for stopping the spy ring. “Israel is in a campaign against Iran,” Bennett said. “We see clear efforts and incessant attempts by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to recruit Israeli citizens.”
The Prime Minister went on to warn that Iran not only wants to physically attack Israel but also to come after Israeli citizens and society, creating divisions and destabilizing Israel politically.
“I call on citizens of Israel to be aware of these attempts,” the Prime Minister said. “The person behind the information you are consuming or sharing online may be the Iranians. Let there be no doubt, the long arm of Israel’s security forces will reach anyone who tries to harm Israel’s security.”
The four Israeli recruits who were women were never able to see Namdar’s face. He would always claim that his phone’s camera was broken. According to the Shin Bet, while a couple of the women suspected Namdar was an Iranian intelligence officer, they continued speaking with him, agreeing to carry out his requests in exchange for money.
Along with her husband, one of the suspected female recruits had regular contact with Namdar for several years. She believed he was acting on behalf of Iranian authorities as an intelligence agent. Still, she took secret pictures of the US embassy in Tel Aviv. The photos were inside the Interior and Social Affairs and Social Services ministries buildings. The suspected recruit also provided pictures of a mall in Holon and information about security arrangements.
According to the Shin Bet, “The investigation revealed that the suspect’s husband was aware of her connections with Namdar, and even spoke to Namdar himself, although he suspected that he was an Iranian intelligence agent.” The husband, a taxi driver, took his wife to the US embassy in Tel Aviv, helping her take the pictures Namdar had asked for. The woman was 40 years old and lived in Holon.
Namdar not only asked the woman to collect information on senior defense establishment officers, but he also asked to have her son serve in military intelligence. The son was about to be drafted into the IDF. Until the date of his draft, the son was in contact with Namdar by phone and asked for his opinion on the Persian language. However, the son was never made aware of who Namdar was.
Another one of the suspects, a 57-year-old woman from Beit Shemesh, was regularly contacting Namdar for over four years. She has fulfilled several requests, including asking her son to serve in Israel’s Intelligence Corps. In addition, the woman was asked for photos of her son’s enlistment ceremony, along with military documents that had been passed along to him.
Namdar also asked the woman to establish a club for Iranians in Beit Shemesh. She was to transfer the details of active members in the branch and videos and pictures of club activities. Images were taken of the ballot box during the 23rd Knesset election and photos of the US embassy in Jerusalem. She was asked to approach a Knesset member, providing them with information about their relationship. The woman was also asked to purchase a specific cell phone and computer. Overall, she was paid a total of $5,000 for tasks she’d performed for Namdar.
Two other women were arrested for receiving money transferred by Namdar, along with exchanging various charity projects and business ventures for over 1,200 Australian dollars.
Each of the defendants is an Israeli of Iranian descent. The four women involved were each indicted on charges of making contact with a foreign agent. They are facing a maximum sentence of 15 years. Because of a gag order issued at the request of defense attorneys, none of the defendants’ names can be made public.
According to a senior Shin Bet official, “This is a serious case, in which there was the intention to establish a spy network for Iran, operating within the State of Israel.”
As an American, this bothers me on several levels. For starters, these suspects were taking pictures for Iranian intelligence of US embassies in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This was happening while there had been discussions for a new “deal” with Iran.
Yes, these arrests were made last November and are just being made public this past Tuesday because of the gag order. Still, in my opinion, it’s difficult to sit at a table and try to negotiate with Iran when this is something they have been doing for the previous four years.
This is the same Iran that has recently had “death to Americans” chants break out at sporting events throughout their country. Just this week, we “eased” sanctions, allowing Iran to receive an undisclosed amount of money from South Korea in an attempt to “build trust” for the negotiations. Why are we going out of our way to build trust with someone who’s been caught establishing a spy network against one of our greatest allies?
When does the Biden administration decide enough is enough with Iran? The administration has tried to pursue diplomatic results with Iran since taking office in January of 2020. Yet, we are no closer to a deal with Iran than we were two years ago. If anything, tensions are even higher, and we’re “easing” sanctions as a means of building trust with an enemy? When does the Biden administration start demanding Iran take action to build trust with us?