JERUSALEM: Israel worked with Chile to spy on the Iranian ambassador in Santiago as the Jewish state grew increasingly concerned about Tehran’s influence in South America, a leaked US cable from 2008 showed.
“Israel is monitoring Iranian influence in the region, which includes enhanced Iranian diplomatic relations with Colombia and Venezuela,” read a cable sent from the US embassy in Santiago in July 2008 which was leaked to whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
“Israel is also watching as a growing number of Muslims immigrate to Chile,” says the cable which was penned by Juan Alsace, an economic and political adviser to the US ambassador.
Quoting Israeli Defence Attache Yoeli Or, it says Israel was “working with the government of Chile to monitor any unusual activities by the new Iranian ambassador” Kambiz Jalali.
They were also monitoring around 37 Palestinian Muslim immigrants from the Iraqi-Syrian border who were resettled in Chile earlier in the year; it said referring to an influx of Palestinians under an UN-sponsored resettlement programme.
“While there are no signs of government of Iran affiliation with terrorist groups in Chile, the Chilean intelligence service and the Israeli government are screening for anything they deem suspicious,” it said.
Alternatively, told him Israel was concerned about Iran’s “growing influence” in Venezuela and noted that there were 50 Iranians in Colombia who held diplomatic passports.
“Israeli intelligence agencies are monitoring the growing Iranian presence in South America and its influence on Chilean Muslim and Palestinian communities,” Alsace wrote.
Israel would like “to expand trade ties with Latin America, in part to help balance Iran’s expanding influence in the region,” but said such a move had not happened due to a lack of resources.
Chile is home to a significant Palestinian community which numbers more than 300,000. It also has a Jewish population numbering around 20,000.
Israel views the Tehran regime as its most dangerous enemy, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frequently vowing to wipe the Jewish state off the map.
A strong supporter of Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers and of Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah, which fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006, Iran is also believed to be developing a nuclear weapons programme.
Tehran denies the charge, but Israel has refused to rule out a military strike on the country to put a halt to it.