MAKICHUK: France's DGSE shifts focus to the puppet master, Tehran

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.Handout photo

Just when you think things are getting hot in the Mideast, along come the French.

Only a year after they were set up, the French foreign intelligence service DGSE's (Direction générale de la Sécurité extérieure) new mission centres have their work cut out for them, according to the people at Intelligence Online.

The Middle East — which Hamas's 7 October attack and Israel's response to it has thrown into turmoil — and now Iran, which is pulling the strings, whether in Gaza with Hamas, in Lebanon with Hezbollah or in north-west Yemen with the Houthi rebels, have all become major concerns for the DGSE's new platforms.

You think the Pentagon is spinning plates these days! The DGSE also has skin in the game, you might say.

Two of the seven mission centres, whose names and specific intelligence and analysis work mandates have not been made public, are focusing on these issues, Intelligence Online says.

One is the North Africa and Middle East mission centre, which is focused on one of France's geographical priorities. That centre's head is a civilian administrator with a military background who has worked for both the defence ministry and the ministry of foreign affairs.

The second mission centre looking into these issues is focused on strategic weapons and disruptive technologies.

The aim is to be able to monitor the technical capabilities of Iran's Revolutionary Guards clandestine units deployed in the region and which use drones, missiles and other equipment, the report said.

The centre's head is a graduate of École Polytechnique and École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications, and its deputy head has direct experience of Iran as she recently worked at the French embassy there.

Following a meeting in Geneva on 16 November, the French European and Foreign Affairs minister Catherine Colonna warned her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian "against any escalation or extension of the conflict."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Hamas that he does not intend to get involved in a direct confrontation with Israel and the US.

Tit-for-tat retaliations continue between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border, but none of these attacks are significant, Al Jazeera reported.

The revamped DGSE has shifted its focus to Iran.
The revamped DGSE has shifted its focus to Iran.Courtesy BBC News

Israel is also investigating the killing of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah. Footage released online shows Abdallah and other colleagues were clearly marked as “Press” when they were fired upon by a projectile launched from Israel.

The truth is that Jerusalem and Paris have been cooperating on intel for years — ever since the Paris attacks. Some of those who took part had origins in the African sub-Sahara, where France has a presence.

In recent years, the relations between the two intelligence organizations have improved and the level of trust has increased, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The DGSE has a liaison officer in Tel Aviv, as does the Mossad in Paris. The flow of information is smooth, and both sides share data and routinely consult. Though, more so in times of urgency.

And for very good reasons. One that could change the world.

Iran continues barring several experienced nuclear inspectors, and has enough uranium enriched to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons-grade, for three atom bombs, according to confidential reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

An Islamic bomb in the Mideast, would upset and change the playing field entirely.

According to the Rand Corporation, Iran's possession of nuclear weapons will create greater instability in the Middle East. An inadvertent or accidental nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran is a dangerous possibility.

However, there is not much evidence to suggest that rogue elements could have easy access to Iranian nuclear weapons, even if the Islamic Republic were to collapse.

A terrifying possibility, to put it nicely.

Nevertheless, the United Nations nuclear watchdog has slammed Iran’s decision to withdraw the accreditation of several inspectors, announced in September, as “extreme and unjustified” and said it “directly and seriously affected” the agency’s work, Al Jazeera reported.

“Iran’s stance is not only unprecedented, but unambiguously contrary to the cooperation that is required,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi wrote in a report.

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyanhu.
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyanhu.Ronen Zvulun/Pool photo

In a separate confidential report, the IAEA said that Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium had reached more than 22 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers.

Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated at 4,486.8 kg (9,891.7 lb) as of October 28, up by 693.1 kg (1,528 lb) from August, the report said. The limit in the failed 2015 deal was set at 202.8 kg (447 lb).

In a speech given in March, 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his first ever address to the Iranian people, “If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, this will be a problem all of us will face. It will change the world.”

In fact, a “horrible nuclear war” could break out if the world does not stop Tehran from obtaining atomic weapons, he said.

A nuclear Iran will cause “the criss-crossing of the Middle East with nuclear trip wires,” as other regimes who understand the danger of a nuclear Iran will rush to arm themselves, Netanyahu said.

If ever there was a sum of all fears warning, this was it.

Gaza, is a sideshow. A terribly, costly and horrific sideshow.

It now involves crushing Hamas, in slow increments. Or hunting them down, wherever they may be. All that, takes time and resources.

But the big enemy in the Mideast, in reality … is Iran, which appears to be the master puppeteer pulling all the strings.

“Iran’s nuclear program has hit a danger zone,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israeli actions had delayed them by a decade, but now the program is pushing forward.

“We should tell them that if they cross over a nuclear threshold, that is something that we cannot tolerate,” he said. “We have to tell them there is a line you cannot cross, and there is a price to be paid if you do.”

Say what you want, about Bibi, but this is a warning the entire would should heed.

The DGSE is recognized as one of the most aggressive in the world. It has also made a sinister reputation for itself for its readiness to kill, including its own.

Or threatening those, who fail to co-operate, to put them “in wheelchairs,” while holding surveillance photos of their family and friends.

Like the CIA, they can play hardball. Its motto is: “Partout où nécessité fait loi.” (Wherever necessity makes law.)

So why is the DGSE poking its nose into Iranian affairs?

Frankly, they can’t afford not to.

“Iran is 50 North Koreas,” Netanyahu told a visiting US congressional delegation in May. “It is not merely a neighborhood bully …”

Like everyone else, they are playing for all the marbles.

— with files from Intelligence Online

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