Israel’s Secret Animal Spies

By Morris M. on Thursday, October 24, 2013
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“Don’t ever risk your life for an asset. If it comes down to you or them, send flowers.” —Nathan Muir, Spy Game (2001)

In A Nutshell

Mossad is one of the most feared intelligence agencies on Earth, a sophisticated Israeli spy network that’s light-years ahead of its Middle Eastern counterparts—counterparts, incidentally, who believe Mossad is capable of controlling animals. Over the last decade, countries from Iran to Saudi Arabia have taken to arresting squirrels, pigeons, and even kestrels they believe are Mossad spies.

The Whole Bushel

In 2007, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched an intense sting operation on the streets of Tehran that netted 14 enemy spies. It was the moment the belligerent Islamic republic had been waiting for: a brilliant PR coup against their enemy neighbors. Unfortunately, the international community’s newly acquired respect only lasted until they saw the captive “spies.” It turned out Iran had done nothing more than round up a group of squirrels.

With such a daft story, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a one-off—something to while away a slow news day. But animals being detained, imprisoned, and even tortured as spies is a bizarrely common occurrence in the modern Middle East. A year after the squirrel debacle, Iran managed to top itself by detaining and presumably executing two pigeons it accused of working for Israel. Perhaps sensibly, Israel declined to comment.

And it’s not just Ahmadinejad-era Iran that gets amusingly jumpy around animals. Over the years, both Sudan and Saudi Arabia have arrested vultures on espionage charges, while Egypt has previously insisted a killer shark found off its coast was a Mossad plant. Even normally sensible Turkey recently arrested a kestrel, although in this case the bird was later released back into the wild.

In short, Mossad’s enemies apparently fear them so much that they think they can control animals. However, before us Westerners start to feel too pleased with ourselves, it’s perhaps worth mentioning that our security services have been monitoring China’s scientific advances in controlling birds for a couple of years now. You know, just in case.

Show Me The Proof

Iran’s spying squirrels?
Iran arrests pigeons ‘spying’ on nuclear site
Kestrel suspected of being Israeli spy by Turkish authorities turns out to be just a bird