On Tuesday, Iran’s state media declared that government authorities had arrested a group of Israel-backed “mercenaries” who were planning to carry out sabotage and assassinations across the country.
An Israeli official called the story “baseless,” charging that Iran has a history of making these types of claims before sensitive diplomatic talks, such as the round of negotiations set to begin on Friday.
Yet the reports echo those from last November, when U.S. officials concede that Iranian intelligence exposed a major CIA spy network inside the country. As ABC News reported at the time, “Iranian intelligence agents discovered a secret internet communication method used by CIA-paid assets in Iran. The CIA has yet to determine precisely how many of its assets were compromised in Iran, but the number could be in the dozens.”
Whether or not the latest Iranian arrest story is accurate, it is widely believed that extensive covert military operations are being carried out inside Iran, with new details on that activity emerging over the past week.
Citing current and former U.S. officials, the Washington Post reported that CIA stealth drones have made hundreds of trips into Iran in recent months, part of “an intelligence surge” aimed at Iran’s nuclear program that also included “ramped-up eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, formation of an Iran task force among satellite-imagery analysts and an expanded network of spies.”
According to the Post, “The CIA also exploited the massive U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq to mount espionage operations against [Iran,] the country sandwiched between those war zones.”
Moreover, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh reported this past week that members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) - which is designated as a foreign terrorist group by the State Department — secretly received U.S. military training at a little-known base in Nevada.