Israel revealed yesterday that it had captured an alleged Iranian spy, in an announcement that struck many observers as suspiciously well-timed. Shin Bet, Israel's security service, says it caught Belgian-Iranian businessman Ali Mansouri on September 11 as he was leaving the country, the New York Times reports. Officials say he entered with a Belgian passport under the name Alex Mans, and was tasked with setting up a business for "intensive intelligence and terror activities."
Instantly, speculation began that the reveal was designed to counter Iran's recent charm offensive, and timed to coincide with Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the United States. The timing "was not by chance," one Israeli military affairs reporter said, according to Reuters, while another said Shin Bet released the info "out of the national interest." In court today, police admitted that government officials had asked them to lift the gag order on the case, Ynetnews reports. Mansouri's lawyers, meanwhile, said their client never intended to attack Israel. "The apocalyptic picture that the Shin Bet is painting is a lot more complicated."