Iran’s diplomacy of denials
Given its many political and security faux pas in the past, it seems that Tehran has now stopped verifying the news reports. Previously, Iran denied that it trained extremists to carry out terrorist operations against Israeli, Arab and American targets. Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that these accusations are nothing but fiction. He argued that the objective behind these fabrications is to tarnish relations between his country and other states.
Iran’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki was fired in a humiliating fashion during his visit to Senegal. He was there to discuss issues pertaining to Revolutionary Guard.
When Mottaki visited Sanaa and met his Yemeni counterpart, he was confronted with hard evidence of Iran’s espionage activities in Yemen. He did not dare say that the evidence was a fabrication. All he said was that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was behind these activities.
As a matter of fact, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard controls one of the ports at Mosawa in Djibouti. There, it has sleeping cells and a training camp. Needless to mention its relationship with armed groups in Somalia.
Moreover, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard also runs terrorist and piracy operations in the Horn of Africa. For this reason, I was not surprised to hear about the Revolutionary Guard bringing Africans into the southern region of Saudi Arabia. The confession of some of the infiltrators exposed the game in its entirety.
Some of them received hundreds of dollars to come to Yemen to be smuggled into Saudi Arabia. In addition, some of them smuggle drugs, weapons and counterfeit dollars.
Iranian activity has reached the Latin American republics as well. Iranians exploit anti-American sentiments in some Latin American countries to establish a “Latino” Hezbollah. One Palestinian who was a member of the Revolutionary Guard asserted that the Iranian intelligence runs a training camp in an area between Venezuela and Columbia. He also said that a great number of people are being trained to smuggle arms, drugs and individuals. They also receive training to carry out assassinations and hostage-taking operations.
Interestingly, those who are trained to carry out such jobs are not Iranians but foreigners who are being recruited under the sway of money, drugs, a common hostility toward the United States and conversion into the Shiite sect of Islam.
In Azerbaijan, the Supreme Court sentenced four spies to long periods in prison. They have been sentenced for their association with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and for working for it. The Ministry of Interior in Azerbaijan also announced the arrest of 22 spies working for Iran. This ruined the bilateral relations to the extent that ambassadors were recalled.
In Yemen, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi broke his silence some time back and confirmed that his country’s security apparatus thwarted Iranian attempts to smuggle weapons and busted an espionage cell against Yemen. He called on Iran to stop interfering in its internal affairs. Iran resorted to denials. The Iranians responded by asserting that they do not spy on Yemen’s economy or nuclear reactors in a patronizing and sarcastic fashion.
Riyadh, naturally, does not announce that it has busted an espionage cell unless it has clear evidence pointing toward such a fact. For this reason, the Ministry of Interior came up with a clear statement. It spoke of arresting some 18 people, of which 16 Saudis, an Iranian and a Lebanese national. The statement did not accuse Iran of anything at the beginning and yet, investigations reveal the involvement of Iranian intelligence in the group. They admitted to having received money from the Revolutionary Guard and having gathered information for Iran. This evidence was documented in sound and in picture.
Iran's instant denial reflects a state of insecurity that Iran has been experiencing. Obviously, staff at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been experiencing a kind of diplomatic schizophrenia. Iranians realize that the ministry does not control the diplomatic mission because of the overlap in its prerogatives. It is as if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is isolated from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is true despite the fact that some 80 percent of the staff working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are directly linked to the Revolutionary Guard and are not linked to the ministry itself. Thus, the head of the diplomatic mission has no control over them.
The Iranian spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to deny the involvement of his country in such espionage activity. Tehran must have known that the espionage cell fell into the hands of the Saudi Intelligence. Interestingly, regular citizens volunteered to offer valuable information about the members of this cell. They cooperated with security apparatus to bust the cell.
Iran’s rush to denial thus reveals one fact: Iran is afraid that its agents will be exposed.
The Iranian spokesman said that the Saudi announcement reflects Saudi allegations that there is a link between Iran and this cell. He said that dealing with such issues in public cannot be accepted. Yet the question must focus on the reaction of the spokesperson when Saudi Arabia didn’t explicitly accuse any specific country. What will Iran’s position be when the Saudi Ministry of Interior reveals aspects of the cell’s activities or the confessions of members of the cell itself? Nothing. The Iranian spokesman will simply continue denying and refuting such claims.
Iran has a history of targeting Saudis. The most recent incident took place when it planned to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington in 2011. If anything, Iran is proving that it will not be a respectable neighbor. What should be done? I think Iran’s meddling in the internal affairs of Arabs should be confronted by concerted Arab efforts.