Israel fears Turkey spy chief is ‘supporter of Iran’

Jerusalem–Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has expressed concern over Turkey’s appointment of a new spy chief he called a “supporter” of the Jewish state’s arch foe Iran, army radio reported Sunday.

“Turkey is a friendly country, a strategic ally, but the nomination in recent weeks of a new chief of the Turkish secret services who is a supporter of Iran worries us,” he told a meeting of his centre-left Labor party.

Barak added that the appointment could result in “the Iranians having access to secret information,” in a recording of his remarks broadcast by military radio.

The Turkish official, Hakan Fidan, 42, was appointed to head the National Intelligence Organization, known by its Turkish acronym MIT, on May 27 after serving as undersecretary for foreign affairs to the prime minister and representing Turkey at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The latter position placed him at the forefront of Turkey’s efforts to resolve the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, according to the Turkish press.

Israel has viewed Turkey’s efforts with suspicion, especially a deal brokered with Iran and Brazil in May that would have seen Iran ship some of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for high-enriched uranium.

The deal was promptly rejected by other world powers, which backed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran on June 9 over its refusal to halt its controversial uranium enrichment program.

Turkish-Israeli relations plunged to an all-time low following the deadly May 31 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which naval commandos shot dead nine Turkish activists, one of whom was also a US citizen.

Israel views Iran as its greatest strategic threat because of the nuclear program, which it believes is aimed at developing weapons and the frequent predictions of the demise of the Jewish state by Iran’s leaders.

Like the United States, Israel has said it prefers to resolve the nuclear standoff peacefully but has not ruled out a military strike.

Iran has always said its nuclear enrichment program is for purely civilian purposes.

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