Ielligence agents for the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia issued disturbing findings on Thursday about the US designated Iranian terrorist Quds Force targeting Israelis and Israeli institutions.
According to the report, which was reviewed by The Jerusalem Post, “A main focus [of Iran’s regime] is spying on Israeli and pro-Israeli institutions, as well as citizens of the State of Israel living here and persons of the Jewish faith. According to the constitutional protection agency, there were findings that Quds Force research activities in North Rhine-Westphalia took place in the year under review.”
The report covered 2018. The Post reported on Thursday that the number of Hezbollah members increased in North Rhine-Westphalia from 105 in 2017 to 110 in 2018, according to the intelligence document. Hezbollah is the Iranian regime’s chief strategic partner.
The 363-page report covers a range of security threats to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It references Iran’s regime 16 times and Hezbollah 21 times.
A spokeswoman for the intelligence agency told the Post on Friday that a specialist on Iran will provide answers to the newspaper’s queries about the nature of Quds Force’s “research activities” in the state.
The Quds Force, part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG), paid the Pakistani citizen Haidar Syed-Naqfi at least €2,052 (approximately $2,300) from July 2015 through July 2016 to target Jewish and Israeli individuals and institutions, German authorities said.
In 2017, a Berlin court sentenced the then 31-year-old Syed-Naqfi to four years and three months in prison for working for Iran’s intelligence service to spy “against Germany and another NATO member.”
According to German prosecutors, Syed-Naqfi was told to identify Israeli and Jewish institutions and Israel advocates in Germany, France and other unnamed Western European countries for possible attacks. He monitored a German-Jewish newspaper’s headquarters in Berlin, and Reinhold Robbe, former head of the German-Israel Friendship Society. The US designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization in April.
Syed-Naqfi spied on French-Israeli businessman Prof. David Rouach, who teaches at the elite Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris and served as head of the French-Israeli Chamber of Commerce. According to German authorities, his actions were “a clear indication of an assassination attempt.”
The US, Canada, Britain, the Arab League, Israel and the Netherlands classify Hezbollah’s entire organization a terrorist entity. Germany and the European Union only labeled Hezbollah’s so-called “military wing” a terrorist unit in 2013. The US government, a group of US bi-partisan Democratic and Republican congressional representatives, and the Central Council of Jews in Germany have appealed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to outlaw Hezbollah in Germany. Merkel has consistently refused to designate Hezbollah a terrorist entity.
When asked if German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer plans to outlaw Hezbollah, Steve Alter, spokesman for Seehofer, wrote the Post: “We basically do not comment on any individual cases for reasons of personal privacy protection. In addition, we do not publicly comment on any prohibition considerations.”
A German intelligence report from the state of Lower Saxony in May said the number of Hezbollah members and supporters climbed from 950 in 2017 to 1,050 in 2018.
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.