PARIS, 23 Dec. (IPS) Experts and intelligence community did not take seriously the so-called revelations made on Wednesday 22 December by the Iranian Information (Intelligence) Minister concerning the arrest of 10 “spies” on charges passing nuclear information to American and Israelis.
Talking to reporters, Mr. Younesi, a junior cleric, said the culprits had been detained during the present Iranian year of 1383 that ends on 21 March 2005, adding that three of the suspects were staff of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
“The spies, believed to be agents of Mossad and CIA, were arrested in Tehran and the southern province of Hormozgan”, he said, adding that the detainees were handed over to the Islamic Revolution Court", one that deals mostly with the regime’s security, espionage and counter-espionage matters, according to the official news agency IRNA.
They behaved like [they were] at the greengrocer", he said, making sure that none of the data from the Iranian nuclear program had leaked to foreigners.
But while some news agencies like “ISNA” and “Mehr” quoted the spokesman as having said eight “Zionists” had been detained, implying that the detainees are Israelis or possible Iranian Jews, others, like the official news agency “IRNA” used the word “people”.
Although the Minister did not reveal the identities of the arrested people or said when they have been detained, however, he suggested that the suspects were not professionals in espionage, as some of them turned to a number of different Iranian agencies asking to purchase enriched uranium and an atomic bomb".
"They behaved like [they were] at the greengrocer", he said, making sure that none of the data from the Iranian nuclear program had leaked to foreigners.
Earlier this month, the Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested a spy who had been pretending to work on nuclear centrifuges in order to cast doubt on Tehran's recent agreements with the European Union to suspend such work.
Insisting that Iran’s intelligence network was ranking among world’s best agencies, “if not the best” and in any way, superior to both the American CIA and Israel’s Mossad, Mr Younessi hen went on describing to bored reporters that how his agents could decipher all secret codes used by would be spies, reading their e-mails, listening to their cell phones or reproducing letters wrote with invisible ink.
“But Mr. Younessi failed to explain that if his ministry and his agents are so competent, how come then that they were not able to detect a journalist passing classified information to an un-named military attaché from an unidentified foreign embassy?” one Iranian journalist who was present at the press conference told Iran Press Service.
He was referring to the case of Mr. Javad Qolam Tamimi, a journalist and author of a weblog who, after being released from prison two weeks ago, “confessed” that he had been “brainwashed” by counter-revolutionaries and has passed information to a military attaché.
“Ever since the Information Ministry lost the confidence and trust the ruling conservatives in November 1998 and the creation of a parallel intelligence network under the direct control of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, Mr. Younessi drops such bombshells time to time in order to justify the existence of his ministry”, a former intelligence officer explained, regretting that the Iranian security and intelligence services are “probably the most inoperative”.
The arrest of the so-called “spies” surfaced four days ago after the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s spokesman confirmed that eight people had been detained on charges of espionage for the United States and Israel.
However, an Israeli online service dealing with intelligence and military affairs speculated that the “vague and unverifiable charge” -- a typical Iranian exercise to cover up a fiasco – could be a response to the arrest, a month ago, of Iranian and Iran-sponsored surveillance teams.
According to DebkaFile, Iranian agents and proxies have been discovered hanging about outside Israel’s diplomatic missions in the United States, South America, West Europe and the Middle East.
Team members rounded up by the FBI and Egyptian intelligence admitted that they were collecting information for Iranian intelligence.
“Team members rounded up by the American FBI and Egyptian intelligence in the last ten days admitted under interrogation that they were collecting information for Iranian intelligence”, the DEBKA-Net-Weekly said in an exclusive story.
Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak had informed Israel’s Trade and Industry minister Ehud Olmert on 14 December about Egyptian security services arrest of a group of Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists carrying out surveillance of the Israeli embassy in Cairo and monitoring the movements of Israeli diplomats and their families in the city on behalf of the Islamic Republic.
“DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism sources report that foreign intelligence services have been telling Israel since late November that Iranian spy teams have been spotted outside Israeli missions in various parts of the world, including one nabbed by the FBI watching Israeli consulates in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston”.
It was made up of Iranian Americans, Arab and Pakistani students - some of them US citizens, and all activists belonging to Muslim fundamentalist groups”, the service said, adding “they were perfectly aware that the data sent to Iranian intelligence was intended for use in hostage taking and bombing attacks against Israeli missions”. ENDS IRAN ESPIONAGE 231204 <br style="mso-special-character: line-break"><br style="mso-special-character: line-break">