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Jerusalem - Tehran-Born Israeli Intelligence Officer Helping Military Understand Iran

Published on: December 17, 2013 10:22 PM
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FILE - Handout picture released on 06 June 2007 by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) shows a large scale military exercise carried out on 05 May 2007 in the Negev Desert near Shizafon, Israel. EPAFILE - Handout picture released on 06 June 2007 by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) shows a large scale military exercise carried out on 05 May 2007 in the Negev Desert near Shizafon, Israel. EPA

Jerusalem - Major M., an immigrant from Tehran who has been assisting the Israeli army with understanding the Islamist regime, says defense has taken a different turn to battle Iran.

The Times of Israel (http://bit.ly/18xhDP8) reports that Major M., who serves as deputy commander of one of the units in the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, has spent the majority of his military service battling Israel’s top security threat, Iran. M. is a small part of a significant and very successful shift within Israeli intelligence focusing on the language, social, and cultural customs of Iran.

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Major M.’s background and his role in military intelligence draw a picture of a small part of a great change that has helped Israel in its struggle with Iran and its larger understanding of a shifting Middle East.

Growing up, M.’s family was active in the Jewish community and lived in a Jewish neighborhood in Tehran. His family hid their faith in public, and at home, they kept kosher, observed Shabbat and made their own wine, which they couldn’t buy.

School was troublesome as well. Most of the students and teachers were Jewish, but many members of administration were Muslim. “Their goal,” he said, “was to ensure that you’re not teaching Zionism or going overboard with the Jewish education.” A few years later, the family fled to Israel.

In 1995 M. was drafted into the IDF and was originally slated to become a Merkava tank mechanic. Once his basic training started, the Military Intelligence Directorate lined him up for different responsibilities. At the beginning, he said his job, “was translating the intelligence data of what, we’ll say, was attainable.”

At that time, the Persion sect of Military Intelligence was smaller than today and mostly staffed by what they call lahagistim – individuals who knew the lahag, or dialect, either as their first language or learned from relatives. M. was sent to officers’ school and was put in charge soldiers that translated raw intelligence.

He remained in similar posts until 2004-5, at which time the army “needed to step up” its Persian instruction, he said. In 2004-2005, M. was asked to put together Military Intelligence’s Persian-language instructional manual and helped form Persian instruction in the intelligence corps.

M. headed the instruction of Persian in the IDF Military Directorate for several years, and in addition to teaching the laws of the language, he also lectured on history, politics and even fed the recruits the local food to immerse them further in the culture.

After several years of preparing soldiers for that line of work, M. was promoted to deputy commander of the Military Intelligence Directorate’s officer’s school.

Today M. is the deputy commander of a different unit in military intelligence. He did not have permission to discuss his post, but shared his dreams for the future. M. would like to introduce Holocaust studies to the 20,000-person-strong Jewish community in Iran. “I have this in my head and I want to do it,” he said.

He also hopes to visit Iran again, and says his “real dream is to be [Israel’s] military attaché in Tehran. That is my hope.”


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