January 19, 2009
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has disclosed details about a ‘US-backed’ spy ring which had plans to topple the Tehran government.
Following the arrest of four Iranian nationals on charges of plotting to overthrow the government with Washington’s support, head of the counterespionage department in the Intelligence Ministry said Monday that the group intended to build social and political tension in the country.
The intelligence official said “organizing anti-government public rallies and creating ethnic division in the country” were among the tactics to be employed by the network.
The official, who did not reveal his name, added that the group had even been successful in luring a number of Azeri people in Azerbaijan Province into joining voices of political dissent in the country.
Earlier on Saturday, Tehran’s Islamic Revolution Court sentenced the four suspects without announcing the length of their sentence.
“They have confessed to trying to distance the people of Iran from the government and introduce the United States as their sole savior,” the court said in a statement.
Two of the detainees are internationally renowned doctors Arash and Kamyar Alaei, who specialize in HIV/AIDS.
In the Monday press conference, the top Iranian counterespionage official said that the US intelligence agencies had resorted to “soft overthrow projects” over the past decade, as there is no international statute law against such measures.
The official added that the United States, which had spent $32 million on the project, intended to infiltrate elite and expert circles and was seeking to obtain “information on the country’s infrastructure, microbiological achievements and defensive capacity.”
People such as Under Secretary of State William Burns, “Goli Ameri (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs), Ramin Asgar (US official) and some other people linked with the US intelligence service in the region had a direct involvement in this project,” the official said.
He also accused American institutions such as the Wilson Centre, Soros’s Open Society Institute and the US-based International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) of being involved in the plot.
Earlier in 2007, Iran arrested Haleh Esfandiari, Head of the Wilson Center’s Middle East program, and Kian Tajbakhsh, with links to the Soros institute, on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security. The two suspects were released after spending three months in detention.
The unnamed official said the Iranian intelligence operatives had been able to infiltrate the network and “launch an intelligence war with the CIA by leaking false information.”
According to the official, the United Kingdom and Israel were also involved in anti-Iranian efforts which would soon be disclosed by the Intelligence Ministry.
The report of the new arrests comes shortly after Mohammad-Javad Zarif, the former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, claimed in November that the White House is taking essential measures to orchestrate a “Velvet Revolution” in Iran.
“American officials have been inviting Iranian figures to so-called scientific seminars over the past few years. However, when the Iranians attend these sessions, they realize they have gathered to discuss measures to topple the Iranian government,” Zarif was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in July that US Congressional leaders had secretly agreed to President George W. Bush’s $400-million funding request for a major escalation in covert operations inside Iran.
Only days before the arrests, the New York Times disclosed that President George W. Bush had denied a request by Israel for specialized bunker-busting bombs to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Instead, the US president declared that he had authorized new covert actions intended to sabotage the country’s nuclear program.
Earlier in April, a blast rocked a religious center in the southwestern Iranian city of Shiraz, killing 14 people and injuring at least 200 others.
Iran held Britain, Israel and the US responsible for the deadly blast. Officials suggested that Tehran may press charges against the US and UK over their involvement in the attack.
Seven people who were charged over the fatal bombing confessed to “being brainwashed into launching a terrorist attack in the country”, adding that their other targets included “Iran’s oil pipelines, Tehran’s international book fair as well as other crowded locations in different cities such as scientific, religious and educational centers”.
The Iranian counterespionage director warned the incoming government of US President-elect Barack Obama against “going down the same path of the previous administration” with regards to their relations with the Islamic Republic.
While Iran charges the US government with supporting the espionage activities, the US State Department denied the report last Wednesday, saying, “Any charge against an Iranian that he or she is working with the United States to overthrow the Iranian government is baseless.”