Israel arrested an Iranian man suspected of preparing attacks in exchange for $1 million against sites that included the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, according to the country’s national security agency.
The arrest almost three weeks ago wasn’t announced until today, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly and, in his words, “tell the truth in the face of the sweet-talk” that has greeted Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani.
The 55-year-old suspect, who entered Israel on a Belgian passport, was sent by a special operations unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been responsible for terrorist attacks around the world, the agency, known as Shin-Bet, said in an e-mailed statement. He was promised $1 million to carry out the mission, according to the statement.
Presenting himself as a salesman of windows for restaurants and other shops, the suspect traveled to Israel three times, seeking Israeli partners to start new businesses that were meant to serve as cover for Iranian intelligence-gathering, the Shin-Bet said. He was arrested Sept. 11 at Ben Gurion International Airport as he was about to board a flight from Israel.
Among his possessions were photographs of sites that would be of interest to Iranian intelligence, including the U.S. Embassy that overlooks the beaches of Tel Aviv’s coastline. Geoff Anisman, the embassy spokesman, declined to comment.
An Israeli official traveling with Netanyahu said the arrest shows Iran’s diplomatic efforts at the UN don’t match its actions, which include acts of terrorism around the world. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic nature of the arrest.
Public defense lawyers representing the suspect said he is a Belgian businessman man who is not motivated by any pro-Iranian agenda, the Jerusalem Post reported, citing attorneys Michael Orkavi and Anat Yaari. They said the suspect was denied access to a lawyer for nine days and that the case is more complex than the way it has been presented by Israel.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow and address the General Assembly the following day.
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