Iran executes former deputy defense minister, accusing him of being an MI6 spy

Ali ShamkhaniIRAN ANNOUNCED ON SATURDAY one of the most high-profile executions in its recent history, involving Alireza Akbari, who served as the Islamic Republic’s deputy minister of defense in the 2000s. Akbari, 61, a dual Iranian-British citizen, was reportedly executed by hanging on or before January 14.

As a government official, Akbari was associated with the Iranian Reformists, who were particularly prominent in the early 2000s during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami. Akbari served as deputy defense minister under Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani (1997-2005), a two-star general. General Shamkhani (pictured), an Iranian Arab, currently chairs Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. He is among the few Reformists who today remain in positions of power in Iran.

Akbari’s tenure was cut short in 2005, when Khatami was succeeded in the presidency by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardliner, who made sweeping changes in government administration. After he was briefly detained by pro-Ahmadinejad hardliners, Akbari moved to the United Kingdom in 2008, and established a small but reputable think-tank. By 2019, he had acquired British citizenship and was active in Iranian politics, but from afar. But in 2019, Akbari was invited to visit Iran by an unnamed “senior Iranian diplomat”, ostensibly to assist in negotiations with Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program. Having previously helped in international negotiations at the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War in the late 1980s, Akbari agreed to travel to Tehran.

However, the invitation was part of what the Iranians later described as a “deception operation”, which marked the culmination of a “long and multi-layered process involving counterintelligence”. Akbari’s arrest in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport was the last time Akbari was seen in public. Iranian prosecutors later described Akbari as a “key spy” for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and accused him of working for an MI6 front company. In that role, they claimed, Akbari gave MI6 information about nearly 200 Iranian officials, for which he was paid over $2 million in a variety of currencies. Read more of this post

Iran says it dismantled a ‘complicated’ CIA cyber operation in several countries

Ali ShamkhaniA senior Iranian security official said on Monday that Tehran had dismantled “one of the most complicated” espionage operations by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, leading to “arrests and confessions” of suspects in several countries. The announcement was made by Ali Shamkhani (pictured), secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, the Islamic Republic’s highest security decision-making body, which is chaired by the country’s president.

Speaking in Tehran to reporters from pro-government news agencies, including IRIB and Fars News, Shamkhani said that Iran had “exposed” what he described as a CIA-run cyber espionage network, which carried out “operations in different countries”. He said the alleged espionage network had been detected by Iranian counterintelligence agencies “some time ago and was dismantled”. Iran’s counterintelligence actions had led to the “identification and arrest of CIA intelligence agents”, said Shamkhani, many of whom had been arrested “in different countries”. The arrests occurred after Iran “shared the information about the exposed network with our allies”, said Shamkhani, which led to the “disclosure and dismantling of a network of CIA officers” as well as the “detention and punishment of several spies”. Shamkhani did not specify the number of people arrested, or in which countries, but appeared to refer to both CIA personnel and local assets. He concluded his remarks by saying that Iran was building a regional alliance “to counter American espionage”. He also urged Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence to release “videos and confessions” relating to the arrests.

Meanwhile, Iranian anti-government groups based abroad alleged on Monday that a senior official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was arrested in Tehran for allegedly working for Israel. The unidentified individual is believed to have helped Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency gain access to the archive of the Iranian nuclear program in 2018, and steal an unspecified number of classified documents. It is not known whether this alleged arrest is connected with Shamkhani’s announcement on Monday.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 June 2019 | Permalink

Iran says it foiled ‘massive terrorist attack’ by Sunni militants

TehranIranian intelligence officials said on Monday that they foiled “one of the largest terrorist attacks ever planned” against the country, allegedly plotted by Sunni militants aiming to inflict mass casualties during the month of Ramadan. A statement by the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Intelligence said that the attacks had been planned to take place simultaneously in the capital Tehran and several other Iranian cities. Iranian state-owned news agencies reported that an unspecified number of suspects had been arrested and were under interrogation by the authorities.

The statement by the Intelligence Ministry provided few details, but said that the suspects were arrested in several raids conducted across Iran. It added that “a great deal of explosives and ammunition” were confiscated in the raids. The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which has close links with the Iranian government, said that the raids were personally coordinated by Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani. Shamkhani is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, which is effectively the country’s national security council. Another government-controlled news agency, Fars, said that the terrorist plot aimed to attack civilian targets during the holy month of Ramadan, which is the most revered time on the Muslim religious calendar. Iran’s official state news agency, IRNA, reported on Monday that the attacks had been planned for last Thursday, a day in the Iranian religious calendar when festivities are held to commemorate the death of Khadija bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of the Prophet Mohammed.

None of the media reports identified those who were allegedly connected with the planned attacks. However, the reports repeatedly used the term ‘takfir’, a derogatory epithet used to describe Muslims who display militancy against those whom they consider to be ‘unbelievers’. The term is frequently employed by state-owned Iranian media to refer to the followers of the Islamic State, which Iran has been battling for over a year in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. However, IRNA referred to the alleged plotters as “Wahhabi takfiris”, possibly implying a link with Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is the state-promoted religious dogma. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have sunk to unprecedented lows in recent years. Last month, Iran said it would not allow religious pilgrims to visit Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage, because the Saudi authorities had not responded to Tehran’s requests to provide security for Iranian pilgrims.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 21 June 2016 | Permalink

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