“Spies at Work”, Principlists Warn about Foreign Embassies as Iran Gets Closer to Presidential Election

14 September 2016 | 13:30 Code : 1963099 General category
The upgrading of London-Tehran relations to ambassadorial level last week was instantly met with domestic backlashes in Iran.
“Spies at Work”, Principlists Warn about Foreign Embassies as Iran Gets Closer to Presidential Election

A day after Hamid Baeidinejad and Nicholas Hopton submitted their credentials to London and Tehran, Kayhan published an editorial penned by editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari, in which he called the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ move illegal on the grounds that it had to solicit Majlis’ permission to renew ties with the UK only after the latter changed its hostile policies.


Shriatmadari drew on foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s remarks in which he called the upgrade “an important moment” in bilateral ties. “I hope this will mark the start of more productive cooperation between our countries, enabling us to discuss more directly issues such as human rights and Iran’s role in the region, as well as ongoing implementation of the nuclear deal and the expansion of the trading relationship between both our countries,” Western media outlets quoted Johnson as saying. To Shariatmadari and his like-minded peers, this was intelligence-driven brag. Shariatmadari went on to claim that the newly assigned UK ambassador has been a ‘prominent agent’ of MI6 and cemented his argument for intelligence threats through a quote from ex-MI6 chief Sir John Sawers’s televised speech in October 2010: “Stopping nuclear proliferation cannot be addressed purely by conventional diplomacy. We need intelligence-led operations to make it more difficult for countries like Iran to develop nuclear weapons.”


It is a historical fact that in less than a month, Iranian quantum physicist Majid Shahriari was assassinated on the same day that Fereydoun Abbassi, who later became chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), saved himself from a similar car bomb assasination. Iran officially blames Mossad for the assassinations.


Shariatmadari, however, made a quickly passing reference, and then accused the British Council of providing financial and intelligence support for the 2009 US-Israeli “sedition”, a label Iranian officials use to refer to the unrest that followed the controversial presidential race of that year.


In his concluding paragraph, Shariatmadari took his argument to a whole new level, making it a case against all the Big Three European states’ diplomatic missions. The new French ambassador to Iran, François Sénémaud, is also a veteran intelligence agent of DGES, France’s external intelligence agency, the article said. Shariatmadari went on to note that Michael Klor-Berchtold, rumored to be the next German ambassador to Tehran, has deputized the Federal Intelligence Service under Gerhard Schindler. “He should have remained for at least three years in the deputy post but was discharged after two years for a mission to Iran. What is all the hurry about?”


In the final line of the article, Shariatmadari made clear who his real target was. These developments, nine months before the presidential election in Iran, indicate that the US and its allies have plans for Iran, he said.


Other Principlists soon took the cue from Shariatmadari’s lead. On Sunday, Mohammad-Nabi Habibi, Secretary General to the Islamic Coalition Party, echoed the same concerns in a meeting with the party’s secretaries, saying London’s behavior with Iran has not changed. “The new UK ambassador is one of the country’s security official, specializing in soft war. His appointment before the 2017 election is not expedient and he should be considered an adverse element. This shows the London’s hostilities will intensify in the new round of relations,” Tasnim News Agency quoted him as saying.


Fars Plus, a Fars News subsidiary which is now limited to a Telegram channel, vaguely quotes an article in Seda Weekly, titled “Proxy Diplomacy”, written by Ahmad Naghibzadeh, political scholar affiliated with the pro-Rafsanjani Executives of Construction Party, which apparently says Iran-UK relations are a function of diplomacy between Tehran and Washington. Fars Plus does not provide any further details but finds that the Rouhani administration’s “insistence to reopen the British Council and upgrade ties” was aimed to facilitate UK’s proxy measures for the US.


European diplomatic missions are not the only ones under the Principlists’ radar. Pars News, a hardliner online outlet, has also published a short article on the suspicious links among embassies of three African countries in Tehran. As Iranian intelligence services have become more sensitive about European embassies’ covert recruitment of informers under the cover of educational classes, the Europeans have relegated the operation to African embassies, the article claims. “The embassies of three African countries, including one in Western Africa, have held English, French and music classes for students in Tehran, directed and financed by the French Embassy,” Pars reported. The classes are used to elicit the information and pave the ground for future cooperation. Pars calls it an obvious example of infiltration in the country’s Education Ministry, “definitely intended to estrange [Iranian] students from the values of the Islamic Revolution and familiarize them with Western culture.


“An intelligence orchestra is being formed in Tehran,” warns Mahdi Mohammadi, an ardent critic of Hassan Rouhani’s nuclear policy and former politics editor at Kayhan Daily. In a hand-rubbing tone, Mohammadi writes the situation is quickly becoming more “delicious”, in a short article that appeared on his Telegram channel. Parroting claims made by Shariatmadari, Mohammadi writes:


“First, proxy operations are peaking. A certain African or Asian embassy puts all its capacities at the service of the US and France. Do not be surprised if you hear news that an American diplomat is also deployed to Tehran. More interesting is the division of labor being established. The embassy of the UK is responsible for political affairs, while that of Sweden focuses on entrepreneurship, with Netherland on human rights, Italy on the youth, Germany on academics and artists and France on culture. I shall repeat what is already ordained: who are they mobilizing for?”


Back during the street protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, Iran arrested several diplomats and foreign embassy staff members for playing alleged roles in the sedition. Spain’s chief consular official Ignacio Perez-Cambra who was held under arrest for four hours is one example. Western embassies in Tehran, including those of France and Italy, openly announced that they would welcome 2009 presidential protesters being chased or injured and the then French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner admitted that it was a “European order”.


This year, too, Iran has had its own face-offs with foreign diplomatic missions, including partygoers and those who have approached military sites. Iranian judiciary officials are putting more emphasis on dual-nationals who are, they believe, easier targets for adverse intelligence services. Even a rare episode is still under way after Iranian nuclear negotiator, Abdolrassoul Dorri Esfahani, was indicted.


Since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013, Principlists have warned the arrival of "The Greater Sedition", echoed in what Principlists mouthpiece and activist now turned grossing filmmaker Massoud Dehnamaki had to say on his apparently abandoned project about foreign infiltration. Two weeks ago, on the sidelines of a film premiere, he told reporters he had prepared a script titled “Infiltrators,” but abandoned trying to make it into a film out of fear of his life, probably referring to possible foreign threats, as he cannot be more secure at home. He went on to elaborate on cases of foreign espionage and infiltration and foreboded that Iran “should expect incidents in 2017 and 2019”. 

tags: iran france germany britain foreign embassies presidential elections

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