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The Shin Bet security service published an unusual want ad in the newspapers this week, seeking "Persian-speaking field coordinators." Training for the position, the ad said, was open to both men and women, and would begin in April.

The Shin Bet apparently aims to find candidates to serve as field agents to thwart infiltration attempts by Iranian intelligence agents in Israel.

The Shin Bet used to couch its want ads in the most general terms, usually saying it was seeking candidates for "interesting security jobs." Usually the ads were either signed by the Prime Minister's Office or were unsigned, with an anonymous post-office box supplied where candidates could send inquiries.

Change in hiring practices

But about five years ago, the intelligence community changed its hiring practices. Both the Shin Bet and the Mossad launched Web sites that detailed the history of the organizations. People interested in working for the agencies could use the sites to send in their resumes.

The details of the ad policy also changed: The full name of the relevant security service appeared, along with details about the post to be filled.

New elements to stymie Hezbollah

Still, the want ad for Persian speakers contains a series of new elements that makes it stand out. Both the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence are responsible for intelligence gathering in Iran; the Shin Bet's responsibility is to prevent subversion, espionage and sabotage.

The focus of such work, it may be assumed, is to stymie Iran's efforts to enlist spies among Palestinians or Israeli Arabs. Such contacts are usually made through Hezbollah.

But why does the Shin Bet need Persian-speakers when it may be assumed that any Arab agents whom Iran would field in the territories or Israel proper speak Arabic, not Persian?

One possible explanation is that the Shin Bet seeks to hire new immigrants from Iran in Israel.

There is a large Persian-Israeli community in the country, with people continuing to arrive during the 30 years since the followers of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power.

Most of these people still have relatives in Iran. In recent years the Shin Bet twice reported that it thwarted an Iranian attempt to enlist new Iranian immigrants in Israel as spies.

The Shin Bet has also warned that the Iranians have enticed Israelis of Iranian origin back to Iran through the Iranian consulate in Turkey, or have blackmailed them into spying for Iran in Israel.

Iran and Israel have been conducting an intelligence war for more than a decade now, involving not only Iran's nuclear program, but also the massive assistance the Islamic Republic gives to terror groups, particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Shin Bet operated similarly with regard to Soviet attempts in the 1970s to draft spies from among immigrants from the Soviet Union.

The unusually detailed want ad seems to show that the service has not been very successful finding enough suitable candidates to become Persian-speaking field coordinators.