By Barak Ravid
The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year leaked to Iran the identities of 10 Iranian nationals who worked with Israeli Mossad officers and met with them in Turkey, the Washington Post’s senior commentator David Ignatius reported Thursday.
Ignatius quoted sources that described the damage caused to Israeli intelligence as “significant” and that the move was “an effort to slap the Israelis.”
According to the Washington Post report, the leak was one of the reason behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to apologize to Turkey about the Gaza Flotilla incident of 2010. It was only after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Israel in March 2013 that Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan for the incident.
Ignatius said that even though Israel apologized, relations between the two countries have remained strained, and added that Israeli officials are suspicious of the Turkish intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, describing him to the CIA as “the MOIS station chief in Ankara,” a reference to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
Despite Israel’s complaints, the United States did not confront Turkey about exposing the Israeli agents, Ignatius reported. He also wrote that senior U.S. officials said they do not know to this day whether the leak was part of the Turkish reaction to the Gaza flotilla incident or whether it was related to the broader deterioration in relations between Israel and Turkey.
According to the report, U.S. officials said that the Mossad has been cooperating with Turkey for more than 50 years and therefore did not think the Turks would “shop” Israeli agents to a hostile country.