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Keeping secrets

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It’s almost impossible to say how effective our intelligence services are in thwarting terrorist plots or preventing homegrown nutcases from doing something reckless.

Some unkind critics would wager there is nothing intelligent about our intelligence operatives who get to stop malicious attacks because the Americans or Israelis feed them information to act on.

There is also a sneaking suspicion among Cypriots that we are being spied on covertly with high-tech eavesdropping gear that police use for ‘non-malicious reasons’.

If we are not already, we could easily become paranoid about the big brother state, but the digital world has put us under the microscope, and there is no escaping it.

The more we become reliant on smart technology and staying online our digital footprint is easy to track, copy or steal.

Cyprus usually likes to brag about its importance to international partners, boasting it can be a peacemaker in the Middle East and a haven during a crisis such as in the Sudan evacuation.

It serves as a listening post for the Western allies that like to keep tabs on the outliers trying to undermine their way of life.

What makes the island an asset – apart from its untapped natural wealth – is its geographical location as a gateway between East and West which is why the British cherish their military bases so much.

Whenever Cyprus can score points to prove its worth to the international community, it doesn’t hesitate to spread the word far and wide.

Only by making itself useful and joining alliances can help the country punch above its weight and wield influence when it is usually ignored.

Sometimes the authorities get it dreadfully wrong, like when it confiscated Iranian munitions only for the poorly stored containers to blow up a naval base.

So, when news broke that Cypriot authorities had foiled a terror plot against Israeli targets on the island, the silence was deafening.

This was a prime opportunity to exploit the importance of the authorities in keeping people safe and being a valuable asset in the global fight against terrorism.

Nobody took centre stage to proclaim ‘look what we’ve done’ as public officials are often eager to underline their ability to get the job done.

They didn’t need to go into detail but acknowledge they saved lives, as politicians usually seek credit for more dubious or mundane achievements.

No, it wasn’t going to happen, even after Israel confirmed Cypriot intelligence was involved in thwarting a plot to kill Israelis on the island.

Certainly, national security was an issue, but nobody asked for any secrets to be divulged, just official confirmation rather than having Israelis tell us what happened in our own home.

Praise

We had to wait for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to praise Cyprus for thwarting a murderous terrorist plan.

He thanked Cypriot intelligence and the President for Cyprus’ role, even if the administration was not saying a word about it – as if it had never happened.

Israelis are a huge tourism market for Cyprus, and now there’s a suggestion the island or at least the north, is being used to stage attacks.

If this is a serious threat, shouldn’t someone be saying something about it?

Even though Israel considers Cyprus a safe destination for its tourists and those who choose to do business here, what happens if we take our eye off the ball?

According to our Israeli friends, we are up to the task after the Mossad spy service said its agents inside Iran seized the leader of an alleged Iranian hit squad that planned to kill Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus.

It said the information was relayed to authorities in Cyprus, where security services dismantled the cell.

Mossad also likes to move in mysterious ways without going public, but they have earned that reputation.

Their claim could not be verified, and Cyprus wasn’t going to disagree – which feels like they were told to keep it shut.

Iran also won’t be too pleased that Cyprus is doing Israel’s bidding, while Nicosia will be worried that Teheran is using the north to kill targets on its territory.

Cyprus’ key tourism sector could disappear overnight if there were any hint that tourists were at risk.

Israel released footage of a man identified as the head of the Iranian cell, Yusef Shahabazi Abbasalilu, saying he received his orders from Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

He said he scoped out the target and took photos of the target’s home in Cyprus but fled the island and returned to Iran after being alerted that police were looking for him.

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