Confronting intelligence and special operations have never been a one-way game. Sooner or later, the opponents begin to play on an equal footing because no one likes a “weakling” anywhere, especially in the Middle East.
It should be noted that, according to many experts, three intelligence agencies that may have been involved in several events in Iran have been particularly active in the region in the recent period. These are the Israeli Mossad and the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency (GIP). Their main partner in everything to do with containing and weakening Iran is undoubtedly the American CIA. By the current stage, the cumulative “subversive potential” of these intelligence services in the Iranian direction has reached an all-time high. US, Israeli, and Saudi intelligence agencies are at the forefront of the tasks their political leaders have set for them. First of all, it is a public propaganda demonstration of Iran’s weaknesses, its insecurity against terrorist threats.
Previously, it was thought that Iran was virtually invulnerable in this regard, given the Shiite nature of the country and, therefore, the minimal ability of Sunni radicals to create “sleeper cells” within the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, the three intelligence agencies mentioned above actively began to debunk this “myth,” which resulted in two sabotage groups (4-5 fighters each) of militants of the Sunni terrorist group DAESH (banned in Russia) attempting a double attack near the parliament and the mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran on June 7, 2017. According to the Iranian security services, the perpetrators were recruited by DAESH, particularly in the Arab-populated Khuzestan Province of Iran, where Tehran had already noted the activity of DAESH recruiters, the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the CIA.
In parallel, Iran’s adversaries began to take measures to limit its penetration into the strategic depths of regional processes affecting the vital interests of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.
And if in the last two or three decades the Mossad still, admittedly, led the score in the confrontation with the Iranian secret services, now, it seems, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.
Admittedly, the Israelis do have several major and successful operations behind them. Among them are surgical eliminations of key figures of the Iranian nuclear program and the establishment of a network of agents in Iran, where the oppositionists from the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran greatly helped the Mossad. So vigorously that they did not even notice how their independent organization turned into a puppet of the United States and Israel. The success of many Israeli operations came to some extent from the fact that the Israeli security services acted energetically and aggressively, were the initiators, and did not hesitate to use the so-called “foreign flag.”
Recently, however, Iranian intelligence also began acting offensively instead of defensively, planning and implementing its special operations in the territory of Israel with a relatively high level of audacity. And this was mainly due to the strengthening of Iranian positions in the infighting Palestinian groups. This made it possible to reach the Negev Bedouins, which gave Iranian intelligence an access to “operational space.” Tehran has repeatedly stated that it is not interested in terror against Israel. Still, secret weapons and special equipment related to the encryption system is the “prize” that the Iranian special services have been chasing of late. And this “prize” was won, ultimately, in the December theft of ammunition and military equipment at Israel’s Tze’elim facility in the southern part of the country. There, the “thieves” managed to overcome the security systems incredibly quickly; then they penetrated the underground storage facility and, in a matter of minutes, unloaded hundreds of boxes of ammunition into cars, and afterwards simply disappeared into the darkness. The stolen equipment was supposed to be used by the military units who had previously arrived at the base and included equipment for communication and coordination between special units of the Israeli army.
One of the clear stages of “settling of scores” between the intelligence services was the execution of the American and Israeli spy, Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, a year ago, who allegedly passed on information about the movements of Qassem Suleimani, IRGC military officer and the commander of the Quds Force who was then killed by American and Israeli intelligence as a result.
But despite this, spy mania was still on the rise in Iran, which once again damaged the prestige of the Iranian authorities: if there are foreign agents everywhere, then what is the counterintelligence service doing? Other unfortunate “blunders” did not add prestige to the Iranian military: the IRGC missile units would destroy a Ukrainian plane with Iranian passengers, or an IRGC naval unit would mistakenly fire missiles at its own destroyer.
Mossad infiltration of the Iranian infrastructure has become more and more disturbing to Iranians. An interview given to Jamaran in June by Ali Younesi, Iran’s former minister of intelligence, had a powerful effect on the population. Israeli intelligence had infiltrated many state institutions of the Islamic Republic, and according to Ali Younesi, many officials in Tehran should be concerned about their security. His remarks were almost in unison with the statement of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who pointed out that a high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer in charge of countering Israeli espionage was himself allegedly a Jewish State agent. As Ahmadinejad stressed, the success of Israeli operations in Iran, including the theft of secret documents related to the nuclear and space industries, can only be explained in terms of the infiltration of local Iranian state structures by Mossad agents.
And now, in an apparent response to this criticism, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence announced in late July that it had dismantled a spy network linked to the Israeli secret service Mossad. Those agents had infiltrated the country from the western border with large quantities of weapons and explosives. The seized arsenal included pistols, grenades, Winchester rifles, AK-47 assault rifles, and ammunition, some of which were to be used for armed rioting. “This succeeded due to intelligence and monitoring activities outside the country and extensive intelligence measures by Iranian forces. The Mossadists intended to use the seized arsenal of weapons in their planned riots to assassinate not only prominent leaders but also ordinary citizens to blame it on the Iranian authorities,” the ministry official added. The representative of the Iranian secret services also stressed that during the days of the presidential election, “Israeli” agents repeatedly tried to carry out subversive actions in different parts of the country. Still, thanks to the vigilance of the Ministry of Intelligence, the terrorist activities were stopped.
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.