Friday, April 17, 2009

Washington Helps Curtail Iran's Covert Thrust into Egypt
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
11 April: Israel has repeatedly warned Egypt that an Iranian multi-branched covert ring would undermine Egyptian security in Sinai and the Suez Canal before turning against Egypt proper. From early 2006, Egyptian and Western security services and Israeli intelligence have been aware of Hizballah's smuggling operations for Hamas on behalf of Tehran and Iran's covert networks in Sinai and the Suez Canal cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia.

Last Wednesday, April 8, Cairo disclosed that Egyptian security forces had arrested 49 men, 41 Egyptians, seven Israeli Arabs, and one Lebanese citizen on charges of supporting Hamas and Hizballah. Iran was not mentioned. The arrests had begun last November and were continuing.

The disclosure sparked a slanging match between Cairo and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The latter admitted that the network's head, Sami Shehab, belonged to Hizballah and had provided Hamas with money and logistical support, "for which we are not ashamed."

He thus confirmed a long-held Israeli intelligence contention.

An Egyptian source shot back by calling Nasrallah an Iranian agent and accusing him of organizing subversion against the Cairo government to divert attention from Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Neither party spoke of a major undercover Iranian network operating in Egypt for three years, eventually to hook up with clandestine Iranian cells in Somalia and Sudan, an outer safety belt as a counterweight to the US naval presence and deterrent against a strike on its nuclear facilities.

Six months ago, Cairo began rolling up the Iranian ring, but only after the US beefed up its naval strength in the Gulf of Suez and Red Sea and assured Cairo that more would be done.

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