Egypt's Latest Drama:The Kung Fu Spy and his Alleged Mossad Masters / Zvi Mazel

Stories about Israeli spying in Egypt are nothing new, but the present frenzy about an alleged spy ring is unprecedented. Lengthy articles detail implausible events; according to press report the indictment itself runs to 508 pages! One can't help wondering whether this deluge of information is not intended to divert public attention from the country's current woes. The recent parliamentary elections were a huge embarrassment, with more than 96% of the seats going to the ruling party and its affiliates and the opposition looking on from outside. This was fraud on a grand scale indeed, with the Muslim Brothers plummeting from 88 seats in the previous parliament to nothing now. The secular parties, which were no threat to the government and could have given it at least the appearance of democracy, were eliminated as well. There was widespread criticism in Egypt itself and even in the Arab world, though the United States and the European Union were careful to tone down their reactions in order not to further destabilize Mubarak's regime with the presidential election less than a year away. Going public with the "discovery" of an Israeli spy ring was therefore extremely convenient at that time. Israel is the designated scapegoat whenever something goes wrong in the Arab world. There might have been another reason: the recent publication of a book in Israel demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that Ashraf Marouan, a high ranking Egyptian official, married to Nasser's daughter no less, and who was also very close to Sadat, was spying for Israel. "The Angel", written by Professor Uri Bar Yosef, is another huge embarrassment for Egypt. It is yet to be translated into English (or Arabic) and the tale of a sophisticated Israeli spy ring being discovered in Egypt could be an attempt to preempt the expected shock by showing that Egypt's security services are on the ball.

The present onslaught on Israel started a few weeks ago when the governor of the Southern Sinai region accused the Mossad of having trained and dispatched a killer shark to Sharm al Sheikh diving resort in order to harm tourism, Egypt's main source of foreign currency. This provoked much merriment in Western medias and even in Egypt people were reluctant to "buy" the story. A few days later the first reports of the Israeli spy rings appeared in Egyptian medias. It is a convoluted tale replete with contradictions and hard to believe details. There were allegedly two Israelis (who managed to get away) and four Egyptians, including a fairly well know former basketball star and her husband. Following the instructions of their Israeli operators, the two set up, with another Egyptian, two telecommunications offices, one in Egypt and the other in Great Britain. The Cairo office allegedly recorded high ranking officials and transmitted the recordings to the one in the UK which forwarded them to Israel. At the same time, there was an encounter between an Israeli spy and an Egyptian woman who was head of public relations in a tourism office; she accepted to provide him with information on tourist groups from China and Japan travelling to Sinai in exchange for money. This information was then used by Israel to kidnap the tourists(!), returning them to Egyptian Sinai after a while. Here again this was done to disrupt the security of the region. According to media reports, the four Egyptians were subsequently arrested, interrogated, confessed and will be brought to trial shortly while Interpol was requested to arrest the two Israeli spies who had managed to escape.

The two tales failed to convince. After all, none of the "kidnapped" tourists had said a word, let alone complain. And why would Israel wish to make trouble in Sinai? Egyptian forces play a vital role in preventing the smuggling of weapons and rockets as well as of terrorists from Egypt to Gaza and from Gaza to Egypt. There was another problem. If sensitive information had been transmitted to Israel through the telecommunications offices, that was a success for that country, and a bitter failure for the Egyptian security apparatus.

Enters the Kung Fu spy and the new stories in Egyptian medias. Tarek Abdel Razek Hussein, a Kung Fu instructor trained in China, found himself in financial straits when he came back to Egypt and decided to return to China at the beginning of the year 2007. He was not very successful there either and decided to offer his services to an online Mossad site. (According to another version, he saw an ad asking for candidates for a job in an Israeli commercial company where they could earn a million dollars...). He applied and was contacted sometime later by one Yosef Dimur. This was the beginning of his work for the Mossad. From late 2007 to the beginning of 2008 he was sent for training in a number of countries in South East Asia, learned spy craft and was given state of the art equipment, including a computer "worth two million dollars" and a cell phone. He took them from country to country without raising the alarm, since, he said, only sophisticate equipment used by counter-espionage services could have detected them. His main case officer, one Moshe Idie, told him to open in China an export-import company dealing in olive oil and other products but also to set up a web site to attract telecommunications engineers from Syria, Lebanon and Egypt who might later be recruited by the Mossad. Razek travelled to Syria ostensibly to further his olive oil interests but in fact to be the contact man for a high ranking Mossad spy, one Saleh alNijim, who was in charge of nuclear affairs in the Syrian military security service(!). The man was responsible for transmitting to Israel information on his country's nuclear program and according to Abdel Razek, used him to pass on details on uranium enrichment, including where it was being done and where nuclear waste was buried. This was done using his state of the art computer. In return Abdel Razek gave him hashish, wine, viagra as well as money. The Egyptian also says alNijim would communicate directly to the Mossad via his cell phone. He added that it was the Syrian spy who helped Israel pinpoint the location of the Syrian nuclear facility and destroy it.

Abdel Razek, according to the Egyptian presse, became even the liaison officer for a “top Israeli spy” in Egypt, a man nicknamed ”alustaz” (the professor) who had allegedly been active in this country for the last 20 years.

A great story. Nevermind that, regarding Syria, the dates don't work. The nuclear facility was bombed in October 2007 while Abdel Razek was still being trained in South East Asia; he did not travel to Syria before 2008. And one finds it hard to believe that the Mossad made Abdel Razek his “top spy in the region” and gave him the names of its master spies in Syria and Egypt while the key to this profession is strict compartmentalization.

Abdel Razek also told his interrogators that Yosef Dimur, the man who had recuited him, boasted that it was Mossad agents which had sabotaged the underwater telephone cables linking Egypt to Italy, a year and a half ago, causing havoc in Egypt and severely damaging its internet links to the world. Nobody stopped to ask why would Israel want to do that, but Egyptian medias were prompt to point out the wickedness of the ways of their neighbor.

One could go on and on; there are many more stories in the press and the upcoming trial to start on January 15 will undoubtedly pour more fuel to the fire - even though the lawyer assigned to Razek's defense told the daily alMasry alYoum 28/12 that her client was a man full of contradictions, broadly hinting that she has a few doubts about the tales he tells.

However it is worth noticing that a former deputy minister, in charge of security services declared in an interview to the popular weekly "alYom alSabe” on December 20 that this episode is not the first in the history of the relations between Israel and Egypt, nor will it be the last; Israeli spying in Egypt is a fact of life, he added, and only by expelling the Israeli ambassador could it be stopped. But this will not be done. Egypt will not sever its diplomatic links with Israel over spy stories which have no relevance to those links he said, adding that collecting information was a two-way street. Egypt has agents spying in Israel who are far more efficient that those who were discovered, he boasted.

Thus can public opinion keep on being distracted from the country's real problems by tall tales of Israeli villainy while Egypt's honour remains intact.

Zvi Mazel

Former Ambasador of Israel in Romania, Egypt and Sweden,
Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Relations

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