Hypocritical Iran regime increasing its foreign spies’ activities
Iranian leaders preach that nations should respect the sovereignty of other states and therefore should not interfere in the domestic affairs of Iran or its allies, such as Syria. Such statements appear to be pure rhetoric, as recent developments clearly reveal that the regime does not practice what it preaches.
In addition to its military adventurism in the Middle East and its meddling in the domestic policies of other countries, the Iranian regime is escalating its employment of spies and special agents to interfere in the sociopolitical, religious and socioeconomic landscapes of other nations. This policy is not only implemented in the Middle East, but also in the US and the EU.
Iran is increasingly utilizing agents who are very unlikely to appear, or be detected, as spies. For example, the US Department of Justice last year said that two individuals were acting as spies for the Islamic Republic. One of them, Majid Ghorbani, 59, worked at a Persian restaurant in California. The other, Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, 38, is an American-born citizen of Iranian descent. Doostdar holds both Iranian and American citizenship. They were accused of spying on Jewish and Israeli facilities, as well as collecting information about members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq.
This will likely cause more tension, and impose fear, within the Persian community, which is mostly centered in California. Carrying out acts of espionage in the US also poses a danger to the lives of Americans, since the Tehran regime views the US as the “great Satan,” its No. 1 enemy, and strives to damage its national security. Assistant Attorney General John Demers acknowledged that: “Doostdar and Ghorbani 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. With their arrest and these charges, we are seeking to hold the defendants accountable.”
The Quds Force is mandated to primarily operate in foreign countries in order to advance the revolutionary ideology and geopolitical interests of the Islamic Republic.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
A common misconception is that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence is solely behind these activities, but another crucial institution to bear in mind is the Quds Force, which is led by Qassem Soleimani and is the elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Quds Force is mandated to primarily operate in foreign countries in order to advance the revolutionary ideology and geopolitical interests of the Islamic Republic.
This brings us to another type of unlikely spy that Iran employs: Individuals working in its embassies and consulates in foreign countries, such as diplomats. Some diplomats have full immunity from prosecution, meaning that they cannot be imprisoned or forced to testify in court, even if they commit the most heinous crimes, including plotting a terrorist act or committing murder.
That is why the Netherlands last year had to expel two Iranian embassy staff members to their home country rather than bring charges against them in court. In other words, even in the worst scenario, the Iranian regime scores a victory because it not only achieves its objectives through its diplomats, but also gets them back if they are caught red-handed. Afterwards, the regime is likely to just replace the expelled diplomats with new ones.
In addition to the scandal caused by the two diplomats in the Netherlands, an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna was reportedly behind a bomb plot targeting a large gathering of human rights activists and politicians protesting against the Islamic Republic in Paris. The gathering was organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This was one of the rare cases in which the Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested, along with two others.
Nevertheless, the Iranian authorities are shrewdly resorting to the immunity card once again. Both Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi and the head of the Quds Force are buttressing their argument that Assadi enjoys full diplomatic immunity. The Iranian regime is exploiting Article 40 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and demanding that he be set free.
It is totally hypocritical for the theocratic establishment of Iran to demand immunity for their embassy staff, who are accused of being engaged in terror plots, while its regime is known for ransacking foreign embassies in Tehran — include those of the UK and Saudi Arabia — for no reason, as well as taking diplomats hostage.
The Iranian regime is escalating its attempts to attack the West, with its spies intensifying their work in the US and Europe. They are sworn to inflict significant damage. The West must put more efforts into disrupting Iran’s espionage networks.
- 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