On August 28th, Iran’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi announced that “tens of spies” were identified and arrested throughout various government organizations.
The development was reported by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a semi-official media publication in the country.
“The Intelligence Ministry’s anti-espionage division is one of its most powerful divisions,” stressed Alavi.
The intelligence minister did not reveal which countries the spies worked for or when they were arrested, however most of the arrested individuals had dual nationalities. As reported by Reuters – “Iran does not recognize dual nationality and does not routinely announce arrests or charges of dual nationals, whose rights to consular assistance are enshrined in the U.N. Vienna Convention.”
“I have repeatedly asked people to inform us if they know any dual national. The Intelligence Ministry’s anti-espionage unit has successfully identified and arrested tens of spies in different governmental bodies,” ISNA quotes the minister as saying.
According to Reuters, the arrests of dual nationals has gone up since Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there had been “infiltration” of Western agents in Iranian institutions. Reuters further reported that in 2017, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards arrested at least 30 dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.
Reuters also cited Alavi who said that “you have recently heard that we brought under our control a member of a cabinet of a powerful country”, without specifying which country. According to Reuters, citing an Iranian media, Alavi was referring to a former Israeli energy minister who was accused of serving as an Iranian agent by Israel’s internal security service in June 2018. Gonen Segev, energy minister from 1995 to 1996, had been living in Nigeria, where he made contact with officials at the Iranian embassy in 2012, according to Israeli investigators.
Sputnik cited Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), “a former US-designated terrorist organization which now enjoys deep ties to the US State Department and White House,” she on August 26th called for Western countries to expell “the regime’s spies and mercenaries” which she argued take “advantage of diplomatic resources to promote state-sponsored terrorism.” In relation to this, alleged Iranian agents were arrested in the US on August 20th. The US Justice Department announced charges against California resident and Iranian citizen as well as a dual US-Iranian citizen for spying on MEK and Israeli institutions in Chicago.
The men, Ahmadrez Mohammadi-Doostdar, 38, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, are “alleged to have acted on behalf of Iran, including by conducting surveillance of political opponents and engaging in other activities that could put Americans at risk,” US Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
In addition to announcing the arrest of spies, Alavi also announced the progress made by “anti-terror operations” within the country. He also added that the “terrorist groups” are seeking to instigate sectarian violence in Iran. “They wanted to assassinate five Sunni clerics… but we foiled their plot,” he added.
He also said that an ISIS member was also arrested in Southern Iran, in addition to a “terrorist cell” being disbanded in the north.
The intelligence minister further noted that several bombing plots in underground stations and universities were also foiled.
On Monday he announced that two “terrorist teams” were disbanded by Iranian Security Forces in Western Iran. Cited by the IRIB news agency on Monday, Alavi added that the terrorist outfits were affiliated to hostile countries and arrested through intelligence operations.
It is noteworthy that as early as 2013, the Belfer Center reported that the Turkish government of, at that time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Service, case officers. Therefore, rumors of “spies” in Iranian government bodies have been present for a while.