Israel fears Turks could pass its secrets to Iran

Mon Aug 2, 2010 8:33am EDT
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak has voiced concern that once-stalwart ally Turkey could share Israeli intelligence secrets with Iran, revealing a deep distrust as Ankara's regional interests shift.

The leaked comments by Barak cast doubt on how much Israel is willing or able to reconcile with Turks outraged at its navy's killing of nine of their compatriots aboard an aid ship that tried to run the Gaza Strip blockade on May 31.

Until relations soured, Turkey had been the Muslim power closest to the Jewish state, a friendship largely based on military cooperation and intelligence sharing.

In a closed-door briefing to activists aligned with his center-left Labour Party at a kibbutz near Jerusalem on July 25, Barak still called Turkey a "friend and major strategic ally."

But he described Hakan Fidan, the new head of its National Intelligence Organization, as a "friend of Iran."

"There are quite a few secrets of ours (entrusted to Turkey) and the thought that they could become open to the Iranians over the next several months, let's say, is quite disturbing," he said in a segment of the speech broadcast by Army Radio. Barak was speaking in the context of past Israeli-Turkish intelligence cooperation, an audience member told Reuters on Monday. An Israeli defense official said the event was private and that the aired recording of Barak had not been authorized.

Appointed in May, Fidan was previously a foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose AK Party has roots in political Islam and has often censured Israel.

Political sources in Ankara said that Fidan, a former envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, was also involved in a Turkish- and Brazilian-brokered compromise proposal -- received coolly in the West -- to curb Iran's controversial uranium enrichment.   Continued...