Iran’s hypocritical espionage activities must be stopped

Iran’s hypocritical espionage activities must be stopped

Last week, two Iranians were arrested and indicted in the US for allegedly spying for the Iranian regime. The United States Federal Court charged Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, 38, in Chicago and, Majid Ghorbani, 59, in California.   

According to the US Justice Department, the pair are charged with “knowingly acting as agents of the government of Iran without prior notification to the Attorney General, providing services to Iran in violation of US sanctions, and conspiracy.”  

Earlier this year, after an investigation by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the federal prosecutor’s office ordered the German police to carry out raids on properties around the country linked to suspected Iranian spies. Those individuals were strongly believed to have spied on persons and organizations ” on behalf of an intelligence unit associated with Iran.”

These developments are intriguing, and at the same time ironic — in the sense that the Iranian authorities repeatedly accuse other countries of interfering in Tehran’s domestic affairs, and invest significant political capital in presenting the Islamic Republic as a victim in the Middle East.  

For example, the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo recently stated in a letter to the UN Security Council that the US government (under President Donald Trump) “has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs under the pretext of providing support for sporadic protests.”

And while the Iranian regime is making such bold statements, and spreading its victimhood narrative, the regime itself has long been involved in dispatching and/or training individuals to spy for Tehran in foreign territories. 

Last year, not long before an Iranian-born Canadian was arrested in the State of Washington for illegally assisting the Iranian regime, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence admitted in a rare interview that there exists a “lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran” in Washington DC which is working to advance Iran’s interests. He boasted that many dual Iranian citizens in the West are significant capital for Tehran because they are devoted to the Islamic Republic and the advancement of its ideals. 

The latest arrests in the US and Europe demonstrate that Iran’s ruling mullahs have several goals. 

Iran must be held accountable for blatantly violating the sovereignty of other nations through its agents and spies.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

First of all, Tehran is focusing on gathering sensitive information on three main topics: Western politicians, Jewish communities, and dissidents or opponents of the Islamic Republic — specifically the Iranian opposition. 

Such acts of espionage will most likely endanger the national security of other nations. Furthermore, by spying on politicians in foreign countries the Iranian regime is most likely seeking to strengthen its illegal lobbying operations, and attempting to change the position of those politicians in favor of the Islamic Republic. 

Secondly, since 1979, Tehran has considered Israel, or as the regime refers to it, ”Little Satan,” its major enemy in the region. 

Therefore, spying on Jewish cultural, religious, and political institutions is a critical function of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Those who were arrested in the US recently were charged with "acting on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States”.

The information gathered by Iran’s spies is sent to Tehran, analyzed by the Ministry of Intelligence and later used as critical data to shape, adjust, and more effectively advance the policies of the state’s apparatuses, specifically those of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Presidential office, and the foreign ministry. 

Third, Iran has been ratcheting up its espionage acts against dissidents — particulary the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the major opposition group which is based in Paris. 

It is an umbrella organization of which Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) is part, and it seeks regime change in Iran. Every year in Paris, the NCRI holds the world’s largest gathering of those who advocate freedom and democracy in Iran. It is worth noting that the Iranians who were recently arrested were charged with working with the Iranian regime "in order to conduct covert surveillance on and to collect information from and about” the MEK.

According to the FBI, the data that the Iranian regime gathers can be used to put together "targeting” packages for "capture/kill operations.” It can also be used to recruit more agents, launch cyber-attacks against targets, arrest individuals who are linked to dissident group in Iran, and to neutralize the opposition group’s operations and agenda. 

Iranian leaders fear the soft power of the opposition more than the hard power of foreign countries. 

It is likely that the Iranian regime has a much larger number of spies overseas than just those who have been arrested so far. 

Iran must be held accountable for blatantly violating the sovereignty of other nations through its agents and spies.

  • 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. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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