In the Washington Post report revealing that Ankara exposed an Israeli spy ring operating in Iran, there is more than one riddle. The first is, of course, what the exact details of the story are and how great the damage is. Another riddle, no less intriguing, is who benefited from exposing the story at this time, and why.
The identity of the person who wrote the article can perhaps offer a solution to these to questions: The American columnist David Ignatius, of Armenian descent, is very close to senior officials in the Obama administration, which immediately leads one to think that Washington exposed the story to warn Turkey against continuing its inappropriate behavior in the region.
There is, however, another possibility -- that it was actually Ankara which exposed it, despite the Turks' alleged outrage and denial on Thursday.
Ignatius has always been on excellent terms with the Turkish upper echelon. He enjoys close to ties with senior Turkish government and intelligence officials. He was also an eye witness to the beginning of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crusade against Israel in Davos in January 2009, when he lashed out against President Shimon Peres of all people. Ignatius at the time was the panel moderator.
The Turks were also enraged at the American journalist for some reason, who lost his Turkish sources for a period of time. Lately, however, the Turks have again been cooperating with him and it is possible that it was they who actually fed him the story. Officials in Jerusalem are not completely rejecting the idea Turkey will not only hurt Israel if given the opportunity, but will boast about it also. Giving Israel a little slap on the cheek only makes Erdogan's Turkey happy, and by doing so it merely drifts even further from Jerusalem. How then does this coincide with the reconciliation mediated by U.S. President Barack Obama in March? It does not, because essentially there is no reconciliation. Ankara only wants to see Jerusalem down on its knees.
Officials in Jerusalem understood this a long time ago already. It appears that Washington also understands who is sabotaging the reconciliation efforts.
Finally, a word on Iranian-Turkish relations. In 2010 Iranian then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad landed in Istanbul for a visit. I was there. He was received, I recall, with great respect. It was clear that the Iranian-Turkish honeymoon was unnatural. We are talking about two regional rivals with interests that often diverge. Syria is just one prime example of the divisions between the two countries.
Both, however, have one important common interest -- repressing Kurdish uprisings. And if the spies are Kurdish, even if they operated on Israel's behalf, then here are two reasons why Iran and Turkey were eager to work together.