Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of running 18-member spy ring

Saudi ArabiaBy IAN ALLEN | |
The government of Saudi Arabia has publicly accused Iran of setting up an espionage ring consisting of 18 members, in order to spy on “vital sites and installations in the Kingdom”. On March 19, Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 18 men on suspicion of operating an extensive “spy network working for a foreign entity”. The men were reportedly arrested in coordinated raids in four different regions of the country, which included locations in Mecca, Medina, and Saudi capital Riyadh. Sixteen of the arrestees are Saudi citizens, while one is Lebanese and one is Iranian. At the time of the initial announcement, Saudi officials refused to name the “foreign entity” behind the alleged espionage ring. But intelNews noted that most of the arrests took place in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is home to much of the country’s Shiite Muslim minority. This, in association with the two foreign detainees, led us to speculate that there could possibly be an Iranian connection to the alleged spy affair. On Tuesday, Major General Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Kingdom’s Ministry of the Interior, said that there was “a direct link between members of this cell and Iran’s intelligence apparatus”. Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, Al-Turki claimed that the government of Iran had provided members of the ring “regularly [with] sums of money in return for information and documents on important installations during the spy operation in the interest of [Iranian] agencies”. He added that the alleged link with Iran had been established during “preliminary investigations, physical evidence which has been collected, and statements from the accused in the case”. Tehran, however, has strongly denied Riyadh’s espionage charges. Additionally, relatives and friends of those arrested —who include academics, religious clerics and a banker— said they were not political and accused the Saudi government of victimizing the country’s Shiite minority. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been essentially non-existent since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the Shiite-dominated Iranian government accused the Saudis of being puppets of the United States and called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family. The souring of bilateral relations between the two countries has widened a domestic rift in Saudi Arabia between the country’s Sunni-dominated regime and the Shiite minority, whose members happen to be concentrated in some of the kingdom’s most oil-rich provinces. Many in Saudi Arabia tend to view the country’s two million Shiites (out of a total population of 28 million) as surreptitious agents of Iran.

5 Responses to Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of running 18-member spy ring

  1. Keeping an eye on military installations, is paramount to the defence of Iran, I hope they have back up to continue their eyes on what the U.S are doing out there, as we are yet again going after a sovereign nation to gain from the resources the country has, there has been meetings between major petroleum companies and rare minerals companies to ask them where they would like to set up in Iran? bit premature to my liking. Carl Clark, Thetford.

  2. Paul says:

    The situation surrounding this matter goes further than mineral resource to be honest. The US has been peeved with Iran since 1979 and now they surveil Iran using whatever platform is available. This will be conveniently interpreted by Iran as aggression.

    The matter between KSA and Iran goes back to at least 1973 and was certainly strained by the events of 1979 given the Shi’ite Islamic Revolution in Iran and its effect on the majority Sunni population of the KSA, stirred up by untrust of its Shi’ite minority in the Eastern Province of KSA.
    That eighteen spies have been arrested and now charged will only further the Sunni ideology that *every* Shi’ite is a spy and supports Iran without question. This is about religion but will obviously call to use whatever intelligence platform available to Iran; in this case HUMINT.

    Add to that the recent claim that a Saudi Diplomat has run down an Iranian in a car accident one has to wonder if propaganda is also at use here.

    British and US responsibilities long been nationalised in Iran although the British Government fared somewhat better in Iran than others; even Russia was directly affected by the events of 1979 and it is well known that Iran’s apparent support of some terror groups [or freedom fighters depending on your view] is not helping its stance and acceptance within the international community.

    The news in English of IRIB [Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcast] World Service provide much insight into events as they are claimed to occur. It’s avalable on Shortwave as well as the Internet

  3. TFH says:

    Saudi Arabia and Iran are performing a dance. One they hope will attract attention and will bring funds from respective sponsors.
    Those in antecedence for the proxy war have been eyeing each other for a while. Neither are human.

  4. intelNews says:

    @Paul: For the benefit of readers, the incident you referred to, involving the Saudi diplomat who run down an Iranian citizen in a car accident, is explained here, from the Iranian viewpoint. IRIB is here, a great OSINT reference. Thanks for your informed view. [JF]

  5. Paul says:

    In the Gulf News last week a short piece carried allegations from Iran that the Saudi Diplomat was drunk at the time. As a result they are not letting him leave the country.

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