(June 20, 2018 / JNS)
Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev’s recruitment and handling by Iranian intelligence, which indirectly answers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—other than what it teaches us about the man himself and his values—provide a window into the missions assigned to Iranian intelligence agents and the difficulties they encounter.
If they did, in fact, see Segev as an asset worth cultivating, it raises questions as to the value of the information he supplied and the priority given to the information Iranian intelligence was tasked with obtaining.
We can already say with certainty that this was not information about plans by the Israeli government that would deter Iran. For some time now, Segev has not had access to that kind of information, and his conviction for drug dealing has kept him at a distance from power players.
When it comes to the success of directing him to try and persuade others to supply up-to-date information about what was happening in Israel, beyond what Hezbollah is able to glean from studying the Israeli media (and it must be said, they are very skilled at this), there is a very wide gap between theory and practice.
In theory, it is a good idea that’s feasible through constant intelligence work, but not when we’re talking about someone whose criminal past Israelis in relevant positions remember, and whom they are careful not to let drag them into dark corners.
What remains? Apparently, beyond what we know about other intelligence efforts by Hezbollah and Iran, the Iranians—seeking to destroy Israel—are mainly interested in identifying attack targets, especially major ones. The former energy minister is an asset who can produce a lot in this area, as someone who was responsible for sensitive infrastructure systems.
It is hard to say how much damage has been done, and it will be discovered only through a detailed investigation. But even if we are satisfied with what we already know, we can understand plenty about Iran and its goals, as well as the limits of the Iranian intelligence community’s capabilities.
If this is the best they could do, Israel’s proven intelligence superiority is in no danger.
Col. (ret.) Dr. Eran Lerman, former deputy director of the National Security Council, is the vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.