|Israel drafting Iranian-born immigrants into its army to monitor Iran||
TEHRAN – Iranian-born immigrants to Israel are drafted to its military intelligence units in disproportionately large numbers, an official report said on Thursday, reflecting high demand for Farsi speakers to monitor Iran, Reuters reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long hinted his regime was waging a covert campaign to track and foil Iran’s nuclear program.
Those efforts, security sources say, have been stepped up since world powers and Tehran agreed a historic nuclear deal in November.
A story in the official Israeli military journal Bamahane included rare personnel data showing that, enrolling for mandatory national service, one in five Jewish immigrants from Iran go to intelligence units due to their native Farsi.
Describing this selection rate as "significantly higher" than the overall average among conscripts from other backgrounds, Bamahane quoted an Iranian immigration organizer as saying Farsi fluency was key.
"Bringing Iranian natives with a command of Farsi into the intelligence corps is a priority," the organizer, Adi Bublil, said. "They have an advantage, as Farsi is not a common language among young men and women in… Israel."
Israel's military intelligence corps is well-funded and staffed. Its Unit 8200 specializes in electronic eavesdropping and is often likened to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
Military intelligence's civilian Israeli counterpart Mossad is widely assumed to have carried out more aggressive actions like sabotage in Iran.
According to Bamahane, "dozens" of Iranian-born Jews join the Israeli military each year. Immigration from Iran - whose Jewish minority numbers around 25,000 - to Israel is conducted discreetly and on a relatively small scale.
Last September, Israel's top-rated Channel Two TV aired footage of military intelligence soldiers in a Farsi class.
According to that report, Iranian-born troops were included in the language program, which lasts seven months and twins comprehension of technical terms with Farsi songs and Persian folklore designed to improve eavesdroppers' colloquial skills.
"We need to know everything (about Iran), from combat doctrines to weaponry to operational routines to slangs and codes," said the training academy's commander, a lieutenant-colonel whose name was withheld under secrecy regulations.
Iran holds Israel responsible for the assassination of its nuclear scientists.
While all countries welcomed the nuclear deal between Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) last year Netanyahu called it a “historic mistake”.
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