How CIA was battered by Iran’s intelligence services

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia. (Reuters)

2017/10/15 Issue: 127 Page: 4

The Arab Weekly
Ed Blanche

Beirut- Iran’s intelligence services, primarily the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and its arch-rival, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ more powerful, intelligence apparatus, have be­come formidable opponents for the Americans, particularly their counter-intelligence units.

The Islamic Republic has in­tense internal security to crush dissident groups and any serious unrest, such as the large-scale upheaval surrounding the 2009 presidential elections. This makes US penetration difficult.

In May 2011, the MOIS said it ar­rested a network of 30 “US spies” — apparently all Iranians — gath­ering information on the coun­try’s scientific research centres, as well as its nuclear programme and defence, aviation and energy facilities.

Iran claimed another coup in November 2011 when MOIS rounded up a dozen alleged CIA agents.

In June of that year, Hezbollah reported it had apprehended sev­eral Lebanese working for the CIA and had identified several Ameri­can operatives working out of the US Embassy in Beirut, a signifi­cant setback for the CIA that was largely blamed on sloppy trade­craft.

It was the worst hit on the CIA in the Middle East since the agency’s top expert on the region, the leg­endary Robert Ames, was killed when a Hezbollah suicide bomber drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into the seafront US Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983.

Ames died in the attack along with the CIA’s s entire eight-per­son Beirut station, including its chief, Kenneth E. Haas.

Hezbollah, presumably with Iranian connivance, kidnapped Haas’s successor, agency veteran William Buckley, as he drove to work in Beirut on March 16, 1984. He was reportedly smuggled to Tehran where he underwent se­vere torture. A CIA post-mortem indicated that he revealed many agency secrets before he died in June 1985 in a dingy room that had been his prison for 19 months.

Ed Blanche has covered Middle East affairs since 1967. He is the Arab Weekly analyses section editor.

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