Tehran is irritated.
After a weekend that found the UK warning of a “considered, but robust” response if the IRGC does not release the British-flagged tanker seized on Friday, Iran says the country detained 17 of its own citizens on charges of spying for the US government. Some of those people, Iran says, have already been sentenced to death.
At a briefing in Tehran on Monday, somebody calling himself a director of counterespionage in the Intelligence Ministry (he didn’t give his name), said the accused parties were recruited and trained by the CIA. None of them were dual citizens.
“The rulings for these spies have been issued and a number of them will be executed as corruptors on Earth”, he declared.
Tehran claims the recruits were turned by “CIA agents” operating as diplomats out of Finland, Turkey and Zimbabwe. (Who knows.)
The spy network, Iran says, was looking to gather classified information and intelligence from multiple locations, including nuclear facilities and military bases inside the country. According to the Iranian official, recruits were lured by the promise of residency in the US and passage out of Iran.
“Since CIA abuses the process of US visa application, some of the Iranian citizens get into the visa trap and they are asked to be hired as spies in return for a US visa”, the Iranian official “explained”. He continued:
Some others who intended to maintain or extend their visas, have been framed up by the CIA, in violation of the US laws. Some of the CIA’s baits managed to escape this trap with the help of their lawyers. Through establishing window companies and under the pretext of hiring Iranian specialists in these corporations or supplying equipment from abroad, the CIA arranges to get up approaches to Iranian citizens. Tempting promises of CIA officers, including emigration to USA, a proper job in America, and money has been among other ways used by the US intelligence body to hire spies. Even, medical aid abroad had been promised to some spies, but none of them came true. Something in common among all members of this network is the promise to guarantee spies safety both in and outside Iran and the full assurance about not being detected by Iran counter espionage.
Apparently, none of these alleged “recruits” asked the CIA if Trump was on board with the whole “residency” thing. Stephen Miller would have likely pushed back.
“A fictional Iranian television series, called ‘Gando’, that reached its conclusion this month, chronicled the exploits of heroic counterintelligence agents battling a villainous American spy working under cover as a journalist”, the New York Times writes Monday, for context, adding that “the director and producer have reportedly said that the series is based on the case of Jason Rezaian, a reporter for the Washington Post who spent 18 months in an Iranian prison on charges of espionage, which he and American officials denied”.
Rezaian doesn’t see many parallels other than the antagonist being “fat”, “bald” and bespectacled.
Correction: I am not an actor. Iranian TV hired an actor to play a character that is supposedly based on me. Besides being fat, bald and wearing glasses, there is no similarity to me or anything that has happened in my life.. https://t.co/uURpo2VlOb
— Jason Rezaian (@jrezaian) June 25, 2019
One assumes this is a gambit as Tehran attempts to project defiance in the face of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign”. That said, calling the CIA’s history of interfering in Iranian affairs “dubious” would be to laughably understate the case.
“The Iranian regime has a long history of lying … I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions that they’ve taken”, Mike Pompeo told Fox on Monday.
Trump called Iran’s claims “totally false” in a tweet. “Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do”, the president said. “Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!”
Press TV has been advertising a new documentary called “The Mole Hunt” lately. “Coming soon on PressTV: The Mole Hunt”, a promotional July 19 tweet reads. “Iran has dealt a heavy [blow] to a CIA spy network in the region and beyond”, the documentary claims. Here’s a highly amusing video teaser:
(If the video does not load, please refresh your page)
On Monday, state television aired video footage of the accused spies, who “confessed” on camera with their faces blurred and their voices distorted, reminiscent of a cheesy mafia documentary. The clips also featured Trump and John Bolton set against images of the Strait of Hormuz.
Last month, Iran executed Jalal Hajizavar, a former defense ministry employee who stood accused of spying for Washington. Fars claimed Hajizavar “explicitly confessed that he had collaborated with the C.I.A. and spied for the United States in return for money”.