Israel busts alleged Iranian spy ring made up of middle-aged women

Shin BetAUTHORITIES IN ISRAEL CLAIM they busted a ring of spies for Iran, which was composed solely of middle-aged Jewish women. The Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, said on Thursday that it had arrested four Jewish women, all of them Iranian-born Israeli citizens. The four women were charged with espionage against the state of Israel. The Shin Bet described the case as “serious” and as part of a broader plan by Iran to build a sophisticated espionage network inside the Jewish state.

According to news reports, the women were recruited via the Facebook social networking platform by a user using the name Rambod Namdar. Namdar claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran. After recruiting the women, Namdar operated as their handler, and provided them with regular payments in exchange for taking photographs of sensitive military sites and civilian government buildings. According to the Shin Bet, these included the buildings of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. The women were allegedly also asked to take photographs of the embassy of the United States, as well as commercial facilities, including shopping malls.

At least two of the women were asked to befriend Israeli politicians and government officials, according to the Shin Bet. The agency also claims that the women were asked to convince their sons to serve their mandatory military service by joining military intelligence units. In one case, according to the indictment, the son of one of the women did serve in an intelligence post in the Israeli military, which allowed his mother to pass a number of military documents to her Iranian handler.

Reports in the Israeli media and the BBC mention that Namdar communicated with the four women “for several years” using the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp. WhatsApp is owned by Meta, the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 January 2022 | Permalink

Israeli ex-intelligence chief claims Israel had role in top Iranian general’s killing

Qasem SoleimaniTHE RECENTLY RETIRED DIRECTOR of Israel’s military intelligence agency has claimed in an interview that Israel had a role in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who led Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani was arguably Iran’s most revered military official. He was killed by an American targeted drone strike on January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq. The same missile strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded the Popular Mobilization Committee, an umbrella organization composed of around 40 pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. The then-American president, Donald Trump, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the months that followed Soleimani’s assassination, Iranian state media claimed that the operation that targeted the IRGC had been aided with intelligence and logistical support by the governments of several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon. Meanwhile, reports by Western media alleged that “[i]ntelligence from Israel helped confirm the details” of Soleimani’s whereabouts shortly before he was assassinated. There has been no independent confirmation of these claims.

Now, however, it appears that a recently retired Israeli general, who headed the country’s military intelligence agency during Soleimani’s assassination, has claimed partial responsibility for his killing. According to the Associated Press, Major General Tamir Heyman, who until October of this year headed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate, has become “the first official to confirm Israel’s involvement” in the controversial assassination.

Heyman is believed to have given an interview in late September to Mabalat Malam, the Hebrew-language magazine of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center, which is seen as closely affiliated with the Israeli intelligence community. In the interview, which is available in the current issue of the magazine, Heyman says that “Assassinating Soleimani was an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians”. He adds that Soleimani’s killing was one of “two significant and important assassinations during my term” as head of army intelligence.

The Associated Press is among a number of news agencies that reached out to the IDF for clarification about Heyman’s comments. As of Tuesday night, the IDF had not responded to several requests for comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 December 2021 | Permalink

Israeli Mossad targeted Iran nuclear plant with three-pronged assault, report claims

Natanz Iran

THE NATANZ ENRICHMENT FACILITY, which lies at the heart of the Iranian nuclear program, has repeatedly been the target of a multi-pronged sabotage operation by Israeli intelligence, according to a new report. The existence of the hardened fuel enrichment plant near the city of Natanz, in Iran’s Esfahan Province, was first acknowledged in 2002, when it was revealed by an Iranian whistleblower. In July 2020 and April 2021, Iranian authorities acknowledged that the facility had suffered major damage, reportedly due to acts of sabotage.

New a new report, published on Thursday in the London-based journal The Jewish Chronicle, claims that the Israeli agency Mossad was behind the sabotage in Natanz, which allegedly destroyed 90 percent of the plant’s nuclear centrifuges. The journal said that a team of over 1,000 technicians, intelligence analysts and operations officers was behind the attacks. The latter were carried out in a variety of ways that included infiltrating supply chains, recruiting Iranian scientists, and deploying a so-called suicide drone.

According to the The Jewish Chronicle, in 2019 the Mossad managed to infiltrate the supply chains used by Iran to build additions to several buildings and underground facilities in Natanz. Consequently, Israeli intelligence operatives posing as construction material wholesalers were able to supply building materials to Iranian government officials, which were “filled with […] explosives”. These were detonated remotely in July 2020, causing substantial damage to the nuclear plant.

At around the same time, Mossad officers posing as Iranian dissidents began recruiting Iranian scientists working at Natanz. The Chronicle cites an unnamed source who says that “the scientists’ motivations were all different” and that the Mossad offered each of them “what they deeply wanted in their lives”. The Mossad supplied the recruited scientists with explosives, which were dropped into the Natanz compound by drones, or smuggled inside boxes of catering supplies. The bombs were “remotely set off” in April 2021 and almost completely destroyed Natanz’s A1000 underground centrifuge hall, which is buried beneath 12 meters of reinforced concrete. Following the attack, 10 Iranian scientists were “spirited away to a safe location. All of them are safe today”, according to the unnamed source.

Two months later, a third attack was carried out, this time against a manufacturing facility of the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company in the city of Karaj, which is located 30 miles northwest of the Iranian capital Tehran. The attack was reportedly carried out with the use of a loitering munition —also known as a suicide drone— the size of a motorcycle. Mossad operatives had previously managed to smuggle the device into Iran in small components, which were then re-assembled.

The Chronicle reports that the attacks against the Natanz nuclear plant were carried out by Israeli spies without the participation of American intelligence agencies. The journal also claims that Israel recently put in motion “a new policy of launching covert attacks on Iranian soil in retaliation for its meddling in the region”. This means that “further undercover operations [inside Iran] are in the pipeline”, the report concludes.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 November 2021 | Permalink

Sweden arrests second suspect in high-stakes espionage case involving Iran

Säpo sweden

AUTHORITIES IN SWEDEN HAVE arrested a second suspect in an espionage case that appears to implicate Iranian agents operating inside some of the most secretive units of Swedish civilian and military intelligence. The most recent arrest was announced on Tuesday with statement by the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO), which said that an individual had been arrested in “central Sweden”.

The statement gave no further information about the suspect’s identity, but said that the suspect had been charged with “aggravated espionage”. It added that the arrest was connected with “a similar case” that led to an arrest of an intelligence officer in September, also connected to espionage. The “similar case” mentioned in the statement refers to the arrest of Peyman Kia, a senior civil servant and former intelligence officer, who was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on September 20 of this year.

Kia is believed to have been an officer in SÄPO, as well as in the Office for Special Information Gathering (KSI) of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST). The KSI is reportedly among the most sensitive branches of the MUST. According to a number of reports in the Swedish media, Kia is of Iranian origin and is accused of having provided Iran with intelligence information. Specifically, he is “suspected of having committed serious crimes against the security of the Swedish state during the period 2011–2015”, according to reports.

The most recent arrest is reportedly directly connected with that of Kia. Swedish counterintelligence officials have described these cases as “complex”, adding that they have been “working on them for a long time”. If the charges hold in court, it will make this the first espionage affair affecting an employee of SÄPO since 1979.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 November 2021 | Research credit: A. | Permalink

Norway charges former Iranian diplomat in 1993 assassination attempt

William NygaardTHE GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY has pressed charges against two men, among them a former diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Oslo, for the attempted murder of a high-profile Norwegian publisher in 1993. The case centers on an attempt against the life of William Nygaard, a Norwegian publisher and former director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1989 Nygaard was behind the publication of the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. The bestselling novel was condemned as blasphemous by conservative Muslims, due to its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. In the spring of 1989, Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) sentencing to death the novel’s author and all those who had a role in publishing the book, and urging followers of Islam to execute them at will. Nygaard began receiving threats almost immediately, and was given police protection for almost a year.

On the morning of October 11, 1993, Nygaard was shot and left for dead outside his house in the northern outskirts of Oslo. He survived after being rushed to the hospital, where he remained for several months during what became a long and painstaking period of recovery. The police was unable to find the culprits of the attempted murder, and the investigation stalled after a few years, as it was unclear whether the motives were political or personal. Nygaard consistently argued that the attempt on his life was politically motivated.

Nygaard’s claims were revived in 2018, when the Norwegian Police Service said it had pressed charges against two individuals for the attempted murder of the publisher. No information was publicized about the identities of the two suspects. However, a clue emerged when a spokeswoman for Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said that the incident “was about more than an attack on one man” and represented “a violent attempt to shut down free speech”.

Since then there have been rumors about the identities of the two suspects. Last week, Iranian dissidents living abroad began claiming that one of the men was a Lebanese national, and the other a retired Iranian diplomat. On Friday, a report by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company stated that the Iranian former diplomat in question is Mohammad Nik-Khah. The report added that Nik-Khah served as first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Norway when Nygaard was shot, and that he now lives in Iran.

Over the weekend, a press statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Oslo confirmed that Nik-Khah served as a diplomat there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the statement claimed that Nik-Khah had left Norway several days prior to the attempted killing of Nygaard.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 November 2021 | Research credit: LCP | Permalink

Iran denies murder plot after alleged assassin caught with gun and silencer in Cyprus

Nicosia Cyprus

ISRAEL HAS ACCUSED IRAN of being behind a plot to kill Israeli citizens in the Republic of Cyprus, following the arrest of a man who was reportedly found carrying a gun fitted with a silencer in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. The man reportedly entered Cyprus on a flight that landed at Larnaca International Airport last week. He is believed to be a 38-year-old Azeri national, who allegedly entered Cyprus using a Russian passport.

Cypriot police kept tabs on the suspected assassin as soon as he entered Cyprus, according to reports. IntelNews hears that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad may have been behind a tip given to the Cypriots about the man’s presence on the island. In the days following his arrival, the suspect crossed several times into the Turkish-occupied northern region of Cyprus, using his Russian passport and “trying to keep a low profile”, according to Israeli media reports.

The Azeri man was eventually arrested in Nicosia, shortly after entering from northern Cyprus at the Agios Dometios checkpoint. Some local news reports suggest that he was found to be carrying a gun fitted with a silencer, and that he was planning to target a number of prominent Israeli business people who live on the island. Reports in Israel claim that the alleged assassin’s primary target was Teddy Sagi, an Israeli investor who owns online gambling platforms, as well as properties in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. He is believed to be among Israel’s richest citizens.

Iran has vehemently denied Israel’s claim that Cypriot police averted “an act of terror [that] was orchestrated by Iran against Israeli business people” in Cyprus. However, the Israeli government’s announcement did not go into details, while Israeli officials refused to confirm that Teddy Sagi was the target of the alleged operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 October 2021 | Permalink

Israel killed Iranian nuclear scientist using advanced robotic device, report claims

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

ISRAEL’S PRIMARY EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE agency, the Mossad, assassinated the lead military scientist behind Iran’s nuclear program using a remote-controlled robot, according to a new report. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite paramilitary force. He was assassinated along with his wife on November 27, 2020, in an armed assault that took place in the eastern outskirts of Tehran. The attack, which lasted no more than 3 minutes, took place in broad daylight. No arrests have been made in connection with the killings.

Shortly after Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Iranian authorities claimed that the Mossad had orchestrated his killing, and Iranian media carried reports about the alleged identities of the killers. But in February of this year, the London-based weekly newspaper The Jewish Chronicle claimed that the Mossad had killed the IRGC general using a “one-ton remote-controlled gun smuggled into Iran piece by piece over eight months”. There has been no confirmation of that report, and the details behind Fakhrizadeh’s killing remain vague.

On Saturday, however, an article by The New York Times’ Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi supported the view that the Fakhrizadeh was killed by a remote-controlled advanced robotic device. According to the new report, the apparatus had been fitted by Mossad operatives into the bed of a blue Zamyad, a popular Iranian-built Nissan pickup truck model. A Belgian-made FN MAG 7.62-mm machine gun was hidden beneath decoy construction material and a heavy tarpaulin, said the article. It repeated the The Jewish Chronicle’s claim that the device had been smuggled into Iran by Mossad operatives in pieces, over an extensive period of time.

According to Bergman and Fassihi, Fakhrizadeh’s assassins operated remotely, and there was no Mossad hit squad on the ground in Tehran when the assassination occurred. In fact, the Mossad team that installed the advanced robotic apparatus “had already left Iran” by the time the trigger was pulled. Artificial intelligence was employed to ensure that the remote sniper’s actions were successful. However, the explosives that were meant to destroy the apparatus following Fakhrizadeh’s assassination partly malfunctioned, thus allowing the Iranians to access the partly damaged vehicle, machine gun and control mechanism, said the Times.

In an article published late on Saturday, Israeli English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post said it was in a position to “confirm the accuracy of the Times report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 September 2021 | Permalink

Israel has drastically curtailed intelligence-sharing with the US, report claims

Natanz Iran

THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL scaled back significantly intelligence cooperation with the United States in January of this year, following the change of guard in the White House, according to The New York Times. In an article published on Thursday, the paper cited several unnamed Israeli and American sources in claiming that the Israeli administration of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu limited its intelligence relationship with Washington almost as soon as Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States.

According to the report, the Israelis decided to scale back intelligence-sharing with Washington in order to keep the Biden administration in the dark about the latest developments in the Iranian nuclear program. Following the demise of much of its intelligence network in Iran in 2019, the United States relies heavily on Israeli intelligence when it comes to following developments inside Iran, said The Times. The hope in Israel is that, by denying the Biden administration information about developments inside Iran, Israel can prevent the White House from making drastic changes to former President Donald Trump’s policy on Iran.

To illustrate its claim, the paper referred to the sabotage attack against Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant in April of this year, which has been widely attributed to Israel. According to the report, the Israelis gave the White House two hours’ notice of the plan, which was allegedly a deliberate attempt to prevent Washington from assessing the operation, and potentially pressuring Israel to cancel it.

American sources told The Times that the move by the Netanyahu administration had its roots in the bad blood between it and the administration of US President Barack Obama, who spearheaded the now-defunct nuclear deal with Iran. Additionally, American officials told the paper that the change of policy on intelligence-sharing by the Israeli government represented a violation of “a longstanding, unwritten agreement to at least advise the United States of covert operations” and giving Washington an opportunity to challenge specific courses of action.

But Israeli officials who spoke to the paper said that the reason why Washington was not given earlier notice about the attack on the Natanz nuclear plant was because of fears that it would be leaked. United States officials have leaked information before about pending Israeli covert operations, according to the Israelis. The report also suggested that the American and Israeli governments have tried to reset their intelligence relationship since the Natanz operation, but relations remain tense.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 August 2021 | Permalink

Iranian hackers used Gmail, Facebook, to spy on US aerospace contractor

Computer hacking

A GROUP OF HACKERS, who are known to operate under the direction of the Iranian government, used fictitious Gmail and Facebook accounts to compromise employees of a United States defense contractor. A report issued on Monday by the California-based cybersecurity company Proofpoint identified the hackers behind the espionage campaign as members of a group codenamed Threat Actor 456 (TA456).

Known also as Imperial Kitten and Tortoiseshell, TA456 has a history of pursuing espionage targets at the direction of the Iranian government. According to Proofpoint, TA456 is among “the most determined” Iranian-aligned threat actors. The cybersecurity firm adds that the espionage activities of TA456 often target Western “defense industrial base contractors” that are known to specialize in the Middle East.

The most recent operation by TA456 involved a fictitious online personality that went by the name “Marcella Flores”, also known as “Marcy Flores”, who claimed to live in the British city of Liverpool. The group used a Gmail account and fake Facebook profile to reinforce the fictitious profile’s credibility, and to approach employees of United States defense contractors. One such employee began corresponding with Flores on Facebook toward the end of 2019.

In June 2021, after having cultivated the relationship with the defense employee for over a year, Flores sent the employee a link to a video file, purportedly of herself. The file contained a malware, known as LEMPO, which is designed to search targeted computers and provide the hacker party with copies of files found on penetrated systems.

Facebook is apparently aware of the espionage campaign by TA456. Last month, the social media company said it had taken action “against a group of hackers in Iran [in order] to disrupt their ability to use their infrastructure to abuse [Facebook’s] platform, distribute malware and conduct espionage operations across the internet, targeting primarily the United States”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 August 2021 | Permalink

Authorities probe death of Swiss senior diplomat in Iran —US reportedly notified

Embassy of Switzerland Iran

SWISS AUTHORITIES ON TUESDAY confirmed that a senior diplomat working at the embassy of Switzerland in Iran had died, after apparently falling from a high-rise building in a leafy northern Tehran suburb. Subsequent reports stated that United States officials had been informed of the incident.

The Swiss diplomat’s death would be of interest to Washington, because the Swiss embassy in the Iranian capital has represented US interests since 1980. A few months earlier, Iran and the US had suspended diplomatic ties following the dramatic events surrounding what came to be known as the Iran hostage crisis. The two countries have yet to re-establish diplomatic ties.

The diplomat, a 51-year-old woman, has not been identified. Reports suggest that she lived in a high-rise building located at Kamranieh, a northern suburb of Tehran, which is known for being one of Iran’s most affluent urban areas. A spokesman for Tehran’s emergency services said the woman’s body was found by a gardener on Tuesday, after police initiated a search for the missing diplomat. On Monday, an employee of the high-rise where the Swiss diplomat lived had contacted the police saying she was missing.

Iranian media reported that the diplomat had been dead for some time before her body was discovered. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that one of its employees at its embassy in Tehran had “died in a fatal incident”. But it did not provide any details. According to Swiss media reports, the cause of the woman’s fall “has yet to be determined”, and authorities are still investigating the incident. Suicide does not appear to be the cause of the diplomat’s death. Swiss authorities said they were in contact with the Iranian government about the fatal incident.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 May 2021 | Permalink

US is far from rejoining Iran nuclear deal, Biden reportedly tells Mossad chief

Yossi CohenUNITED STATES JOE BIDEN reportedly told the director of Israel’s external intelligence agency, the Mossad, that Washington has “a long way to go” before rejoining a 2015 agreement aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The meeting between Biden and Mossad director Yossi Cohen reportedly took place last Friday, during Cohen’s visit to Washington last week, to discuss bilateral security issues with a series of American officials. On Thursday Cohen met with a number of Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Brett McGurk, who is the National Security Council’s Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

The following day, the Mossad chief visited the White House to discuss a variety of “regional security issues” with Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns. It was during that meeting, according to reports from Israel’s Channel 12 television, that the US president “dropped in” unexpectedly, allegedly in order to express his administration’s condolences for the fatal stampede that killed dozens in Israel last week. Biden’s unexpected appearance at the meeting was later confirmed by a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

During the weekend, however, a number of Israeli news outlets, as well as the American website Axios, cited “a senior Israeli official” who said that Biden’s appearance at the meeting was not an impromptu incident, but had actually been “pre-scheduled”. The US president wanted to “discuss Iran” with Cohen, according to Axios, and did so for “about an hour”. According to Israeli sources, Cohen shared Israel’s position that “it would be a mistake for the US to return to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] without improving it first”. Biden did not directly respond to Cohen’s view of the agreement, but said that his administration was not yet ready to re-enter the agreement. He reportedly added that Washington would consult Israel on the matter.

Neither the White House nor the office of the Israeli prime minster have commented on these reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 May 2021 | Permalink

Israel behind mysterious attacks on Iranian oil tankers, report claims

Iran oil tanker

THE ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE SERVICES are behind a series of mysterious attacks that have damaged Iranian oil tankers in the past 24 months, according to a new report that cites sources in the international shipping industry. The report, which appeared last week in The Wall Street Journal, cites a number of “shipping professionals” and “regional officials”, but does not name them.

The paper claims that the Israeli government decided to target the Iranian oil tankers after it concluded that Tehran uses the proceeds from oil sales to fund groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Most of the damaged ships were attempting to deliver oil to Syria in violation of a host of international sanctions against Iran, which are led by the United States. Washington appears to be quietly supporting the Israeli attacks on Iranian ships, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The article cites an anonymous shipping industry professionals as claiming that at least three Iranian oil tankers sustained serious damage following Israeli attacks in 2019, while at least six more Iranian ships were struck by Israel in 2020. All nine ships were transporting oil. There is no information about alleged attacks on Iranian oil tankers in 2021, with the exception of one Iranian vessel that was targeted by a group of divers who allegedly planted a limpet mine on its keel in February of this year.

None of the Iranian ships that were allegedly attacked by Israel sunk as a result, said The Wall Street Journal. However, all sustained significant damage and were forced to return to Iranian ports. As a result, Iran’s ability to deliver oil to Syria has been severely disrupted in the past two years, said the paper.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 March 2021 | Permalink

Iran spies on dissidents via web server based in Holland, registered in Cyprus

Computer hackingA WEB SERVER BASED in Holland and owned by a company registered in Cyprus is being used by the Iranian government to spy on its critics abroad, according to Dutch public radio. The information about Iranian espionage was revealed on Thursday by NPO Radio 1, one of Holland’s public radio stations, with the help of Romanian cybersecurity firm BitDefender.

The discovery was reportedly made after an Iranian dissident based in Holland was sent an infected file by a user of the popular instant messaging application Telegram. Instead of opening the file, the recipient contacted cybersecurity experts, who identified it as a type of infected software that is known to have been used in the past by the Iranian state. Once it infects a computer, the software takes screenshots and uses the machine’s built-in microphone to make surreptitious recordings.

According to BitDefender’s cybersecurity experts, the server is being used for “command and control” functions in order to facilitate remote control of infected computers and phones. These functions include stealing data, as well as collecting screen shots and audio recordings. The server had been previously used to penetrate computers in Holland, Sweden, Germany, and several other countries, including India.

Cybersecurity experts from BitDefender found that the infected file was delivered to its target via a web server facility based in Haarlem, a city located 20 miles west of Amsterdam. The cybersecurity company said the server is registered to a company that belongs to a Romanian service provider. The company is registered in Cyprus and provides services to a number of companies, including in this case an American company. The latter reportedly stopped using the service provider once it was told of the Iranian connection, according to reports.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 February 2021 | Permalink

Iranian spymaster on trial in Belgium had contacts all over Europe, evidence shows

National Council of Resistance of IranAN IRANIAN DIPLOMAT, WHO in reality was the head of Iran’s European spy network, had contacts all over Europe, which are now being investigated by Western intelligence agencies, according to reports. Four Iranians are currently on trial in Belgium, accused of plotting to bomb the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) —an umbrella group of Iranian expatriates who are opposed to the government in Tehran. Participants at the high-profile conference, which took place in June 2018 in a Paris, included over 30 senior United States officials. Among them was the then-US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who addressed the meeting. Stephen Harper, Canada’s former prime minister, also spoke at the conference.

According to Belgian authorities, the four members of the Iranian sleeper cell were planning to bomb the NCRI conference on instructions by the Iranian government. The leader of the cell was reportedly Assadollah Assadi, who was arrested in Germany on July 1, 2018. Prosecutors claim that Assadi was stationed under official cover at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. In reality, however, he was allegedly the Europe bureau chief for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. Prosecutors claim that Assadi traveled to Luxembourg, where he met two Belgium-based members of the cell, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami.

During their meeting at a Pizza Hut restaurant, Assadi reportedly gave Saadouni and Naami a bag with 500g of explosives, a USB stick with instructions on how to build a bomb, a new cell phone, and £16,000 in cash. The two spy cell operatives then built the bomb, placed it in a toiletry bag and handed it over to the fourth alleged member of the spy cell, Mehrdad Arefani, who was tasked with placing it inside the NCRI conference hall. However, German and Belgian security services foiled the plot, allegedly after a tip from Israeli intelligence.

Now a new report claims that Western spy agencies are combing through “a green notebook” found in the car that Assadi was driving when he was arrested in Germany. The notebook allegedly contains “289 places across 11 European countries”, where Assadi is thought to have met with Iranian spies operating in Europe. According to the report, the locations recorded in Assadi’s notebook include parks, hiking trails, tourist sites, restaurants, hotels and retail stores. They are located in countries like Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Luxembourg.

Assadi faces 20 years in prison, if convicted. The other three Iranians face between 10 and 15 years in prison. A judge in the Belgian city of Antwerp is expected to deliver the court’s verdict and impose sentence on the Iranians on Thursday of this week.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 1 February 2021 | Permalink

Iran state media claims Britain and Germany helped US kill Soleimani

Qasem SoleimaniIRANIAN STATE MEDIA CLAIMED last week that several countries, including Britain and Germany, helped the United States assassinate its top paramilitary commander, Qassem Soleimani (pictured). The reports emerged on the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Soleimani, who led Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was killed by a drone strike on January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq. The same missile strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who commanded the Popular Mobilisation Committee, an umbrella organization composed of about 40 pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.

Last week, Iran’s state-owned DEFA Press news agency reported that Tehran’s own investigation into the assassination operation showed that Washington was assisted by several countries, and even by some private security firms. According to the report, the Iranian government’s prosecutor, Ali Alqasimehr, stated that G4S, a security services contractor based in Britain, had “played a role” in Soleimani and al-Muhandis’ killing. He added that the US forces also made use of facilities at the Ramstein Air Base, located in southwestern Germany, to carry out the attack.

In addition to Britain and Germany, Iranian officials said that the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq assisted in the operation by providing logistical support and intelligence. According to DEFA Press, more countries are likely to be added to the Iranian government’s list of culprits, once Tehran concludes its investigation into the killing. Iranian officials have provided no evidence for such claims. It is also unclear whether Iran is considering launching revenge attacks against countries that allegedly assisted the US in its effort to kill the two paramilitary commanders.

Speaking during a commemoration event on Friday, Soleimani’s successor at the helm of the IRGC, Esmail Ghaani, said that Iran was “ready to avenge” Soleimani’s death. During the event, which was held at the University of Tehran, Ghaani warned that “someone who will retaliate for your crime […] may emerge from inside your own house”. He did not elaborate. Large commemorative gatherings to mark the one-year anniversary of the assassinations took place throughout Iran and Iraq, where Iran-backed paramilitary groups hold significant power.

Last January Iran issued a warning against Greece, saying that it would retaliate if the US used its military bases on Greek soil to attack the Islamic Republic. It was the first time that Iran had threatened to launch attacks against a member of the European Union in connection with the ongoing rise in tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 January 2021 | Permalink

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