NYT Report: Israeli Intel Completely Infiltrates Iranian Establishments – Iran’s Intelligence Chief Removed by Gov’t
Edited by: Fern Sidman
As reports continue to emerge about Israeli intelligence units infiltrating Iran in the form of cyber attacks, drone strikes on military and nuclear facilities as well as the targeted killings of Iran nuclear scientists, it now appears that Iran is eliminating certain people from top positions due to security leaks.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that a top general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been secretly arrested as an Israeli spy.
Brig. Gen. Ali Nasiri, who is reportedly a senior commander in the IRGC Protection of Information Unit, was detained earlier this month, according to officials in Tehran who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record, said the paper, as was reported by World Israel News.
The NYT reported that Nasiri’s detention came “two months after several dozen employees of the Ministry of Defense’s missile development program were arrested on suspicion of leaking classified military information, including design blueprints of missiles, to Israel, “according to an Iranian official familiar with the raid.
The WIN report indicated that nine days ago, Iran’s state news agency IRNA provided coverage on three people were arrested in April for allegedly “disseminating classified intelligence and documents.” They were going to be charged with planning the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists on behalf of Israeli intelligence.
According to the Israeli news site Walla, the district attorney said that there was “ample evidence” against the prisoners, and that “some” of them have already “admitted that they had been in contact with Mossad officers.”
Their trial would begin “soon,” said the IRNA report.
WIN also reported that Iran claimed to have busted at another spy network last October, whose members were trying to gather “sensitive information” for “regional actors,” a coded term that includes Israel.
The failure to prevent such Israeli infiltration, as well as the inability to protect Iranian nuclear installations from mysterious explosions, and top Iranian scientists and IRGC personnel from being assassinated, all allegedly at Israel’s hands, led to the abrupt removal last Thursday of the powerful organization’s long-time intelligence chief, Hossein Taeb.
The New York Times report by Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman said that for more than a decade, Taeb was “a feared presence in Iran, presiding over a vast intelligence apparatus. He crushed domestic dissent and political rivals and expanded covert operations beyond Iran’s borders to target dissidents and enemies abroad.”
The removal of Taeb, a 59-year-old cleric and chief of intelligence for the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was a casualty of a relentless campaign by Israel to undermine Iran’s security by targeting its officials and military sites, according to officials and analysts in both countries, as was reported in the NYT.
According to a recently published article by Yoav Limor that appeared on the Israel Hayom web site, “Taeb’s exposure, along with the arrest of his operatives, greatly embarrassed the Iranians and led to the decision last week to dismiss him and appoint Mohammad Kazemi in his stead.”
Limor added that “the terrorists’ interrogation in Turkey revealed that three separate cells were operating in Istanbul, all under Iranian orders. The cells operated parallel to but completely compartmentalized from one another, each receiving directives directly from Tehran.
“The first cell planned to abduct and murder the Israeli ambassador and his wife. Members of the cell told interrogators that they had already begun tracking the two at the time of their arrest. Contrary to the reports in Turkey, the two were not put on a private plane and whisked away to Israel.
“The second cell followed a group of Israelis in the city’s Beyoğlu district. Some of the Israelis were warned and left Turkey immediately, others moved to hotels with better security and were closely guarded by Turkish security forces.
“The third cell, which consisted of Iranian and Turkish operatives, searched for targets at Istanbul’s main tourist attractions. Its members were arrested during raids on their safehouse and other places across the city.”
Eight alleged plotters were detained according to Turkish media, at least five of whom were Iranian nationals, according to the WIN report.
“The security breaches inside Iran and the vast scope of operations by Israel have really undermined our most powerful intelligence organization,” according to Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist former vice president of Iran and cleric who was ousted by conservatives in 2009 but has maintained close ties to top officials. He relayed this to the NYT from Tehran, as was reported by WIN.
“The strength of our security has always been the bedrock of the Islamic Republic and it has been damaged in the past year,” added Abtahi, who said that the move could be part of a general rethinking of how to deal with the threat Israel poses to the Islamic Republic.
The Times also reported that “one of the Israeli officials said that part of the strategy entailed exposing failures by the Revolutionary Guards in their covert war with Israel in the hope that it would create conflict between political leaders and the defense and intelligence establishment.”
The Israel Hayom report said that “the main source of the information that lead to the thwarting of these attacks was Israel, though information was also gathered via fieldwork and interrogation of the terrorists themselves.” According to senior officials, the public warnings and reports published a week prior to the arrests in Istanbul led the terrorists’ handlers in Tehran to “make serious mistakes,” as was reported by Israel HaYom.
In Israel, officials intend to use the information from their interrogations for an international campaign presenting Iran as a terrorist state whose agents perpetrate acts of terror across the globe, the report indicated.
However, Israeli officials are pessimistic about the campaign’s odds of success. According to one official, “The main objective of Western countries is to return to the nuclear deal, and they won’t let any background noise bother them along the way.”
Apparently, there is much validity to that claim of pessimism. On Wednesday, the Jewish News Syndicate reported that indirect nuclear talks between the United States and Iran resumed Tuesday in Doha, Qatar. Iranian state media confirmed this report.
Reuters reported that Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and U.S. special envoy for Iran Robert Malley are negotiating from separate rooms in a Doha hotel. The talks aim to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers, according to the JNS report.
Kani met with European Union envoy Enrique Mora, who is shuttling between the two sides. Iran refuses to hold direct talks.
JNS also reported that one Iranian and one European official told Reuters last week that Iran had dropped the demand to remove its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list. However, Iran still has two remaining demands, one involving sanctions.
On the matter of the Israeli infiltration of Iran’s establishments, a Western intelligence official told the New York Times that the three Iranian steel factories that were hit on Monday in a cyberattack are major suppliers of steel to the IRGC. One of the factories that were subjected to the cyberattack was the state-owned Khuzestan Steel. As a result of the attack, one of the factories had no choice but to halt its production line, according to the Times report.
Claiming responsibility for the attack was a group of hackers known as Gonjeshke Darande. The NYT report indicated that this is “the same group that also claimed responsibility for another cyber attack in November that disabled gas stations across Iran and that U.S. officials said was connected to Israel.” Officials in Israel declined to confirm the source of the attacks.
Speaking to the NYT, Keren Hajioff, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel, said in an interview that the strategy targeting Iran was part of Bennett’s “octopus” doctrine.
“This doctrine is a strategic shift from the past, when Israel focused on Iran’s proxy ‘tentacles’ across the region, in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza,” she said. The new tactic, she added, was “a paradigm shift: Now we go straight for the head.”
The Times report added that Israeli agents have “carried out assassinations with remote-controlled robots and in drive-by shootings, flown drones into sensitive missile and nuclear facilities, and kidnapped and interrogated an agent of the Revolutionary Guards inside Iran. Tehran also suspects that Israel killed two of its scientists in May.”