Analysis: What was the extent of Manbar’s crimes?

Ex-Mossad chief calls crime of selling components, knowledge to Iran was “the worst case of treachery, driven by greed” in Israeli history.

Nahum Manbar 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)
Nahum Manbar 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)
The international spotlight is often pointed at Iran’s developing nuclear program, but the country’s chemical weapons capabilities often evade media headlines.
Nahum Manbar says his only crime was to trade with Iran. But former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit said Manbar’s convicted crime of selling components and knowledge to Iran that were designed to assemble chemical weapons constitute “the worst case of treachery, driven by greed” in Israeli history.
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According to Iran expert Ephraim Kam, deputy director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, by 1987 Iran had already developed and openly admitted to possessing chemical military weapons, as a counter and deterrent to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against it during the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war.
“The Iranian’s didn’t use these weapons as far as we know against Iraq, perhaps because they weren’t developed enough,” Kam said.
Three years later, in 1990, Manbar, a well-known businessman in the Israeli sporting world who sponsored the Hapoel Holon and Hapoel Jerusalem basketball teams, enabled the Iranians to develop their program further.
He arranged the delivery of mustard and nerve gas components to Iranian hands, and also provided information about how to make nerve gas, according to the Tel Aviv District Court.
Today, Iran likely had the necessary delivery vehicles for such weapons in the form of chemical warheads placed on missiles, Kam said, although no known tests have been conducted.
“We must take into account that they have this ability,” Kam said.
Kam said Iranian officials have made no mention whatsoever of Manbar.
Manbar’s brother, Zvi, has an altogether different version of events.
He told Israel Radio on Monday that his brother had been the victim of a vindictive security and intelligence establishment which locked in on Manbar as a scapegoat following a motorcycle crash which killed two Mossad agents who were reportedly tracking Manbar and an Iranian official he met with in Europe.
“I belong to the ‘vindictive’ camp,” Shavit said sarcastically on Monday in response to the claims. Shabtai’s disgust with Manbar’s acts, and belief that his prison sentence was insufficient, likely represents the emotions of many in the intelligence world.