Search form

Last updated: 1 min 35 sec ago

You are here

Nations which appease Iran open their doors to its spies

After an investigation by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the federal prosecutor’s office last week ordered the German police to carry out raids around the country on properties linked to suspected Iranian spies. The Iranian agents are believed to have spied on persons and organizations “on behalf of an intelligence unit associated with Iran.”
The Iranian authorities have declined to comment on this critical issue in order to evade responsibility. The regime has successfully escaped accountability since its establishment in 1979. 
Espionage poses a threat to Berlin’s and the EU’s security. The EU and Germany should take this issue extremely seriously and reconsider their full support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. In addition, Germany ought to reconsider its increasing business deals and trade with the Iranian regime. These policies only strengthen the regime’s institutions, which are behind such heinous and illegal acts. 
It is also worth noting that Germany’s appeasement policies and increasing trade with the regime make it much easier for Iranian spies to infiltrate Berlin. 
Iran’s espionage in the West highlights the fact that appeasing the Iranian leaders with trade and sanctions relief only empowers them, making them stronger and more destructive as they pursue their hegemonic and ideological ambitions. This causes further instability and conflicts. 
There are two major Iranian institutions that plan and orchestrate espionage in foreign countries. First is the Quds Force — an elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The second institution is the Ministry of Intelligence under the leadership of hard-line cleric Mahmoud Alavi, who was appointed by the so-called “moderate” president, Hassan Rouhani.
Offering Tehran trade and sanctions relief only empowers the regime to carry out espionage operations, making it stronger and more destructive as it pursues its hegemonic and ideological ambitions.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Iranian spies and agents do not solely target political institutions to get information or change their policies. They also target universities, schools, journalists, scholars, and civilian institutions for several reasons. Iran carries out espionage through people or cyber-attacks. Often journalists and professors are targeted in order to bribe them or persuade them to write articles and books in favor of the Iranian regime. Universities are often targeted in order to detect the direction of their research and influence their syllabuses. 
On the other hand, some mainstream outlets have projected Iran’s espionage in Germany as a surprise. But it is important to point out that the regime has a long history of spying and has been linked in the past to assassinations of dissidents and the targeting of those who are considered “enemies.”
For example, earlier this month Germany summoned Iran’s ambassador in Berlin after a 31-year-old Pakistani student was convicted of spying for Tehran on Reinhold Robbe, a German Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician. The American Jewish Committee in Berlin has urged Germany’s Foreign Ministry to expel the Iranian ambassador. 
Previously, federal prosecutors filed charges against two men suspected of spying for the Iranian regime on opposition group the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK). 
Iran’s spies operate heavily in Arab countries as well. Last August, Kuwaiti authorities arrested 12 people who were convicted in absentia of spying for the Iranian regime and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. In October, a Bahraini court found a group of 19 people guilty of leaking information to the IRGC and Hezbollah in exchange for receiving “material support” from the Iranian regime. And, in late 2016, a court in Saudi Arabia found 15 people guilty of spying for Iran. 
The International community must hold the Iranian regime accountable and bring charges against the Quds Force and the Ministry of Intelligence. Countries that find themselves victims of Iran’s espionage should halt diplomatic and economic relations with Tehran, as well as expel the regime’s ambassadors. Iran’s embassies are often used as important sites for such networks, so these policy recommendations will send a robust message to the Iranian regime to respect international norms.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business.
Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh