Iran’s dangerous war in the shadows

When black ops go awry and agents operating in the dark get sloppy in their work, it is an indication that pressure is taking its toll on individuals in the field in particular, on the intelligence service in general and ultimately on the top echelon of the leadership responsible for the covert operations. This is the conclusion likely to be reached regarding Iran’s intelligence apparatus if ethical scruples are waived while assessing their activities these days. Operating in the shadows is difficult and demanding, obviously not something every individual can fulfil. Establishing a reliable network requires time. With Iran, it seems it is racing against the clock and therefore bound to make blunders, even huge ones. This may be a sign that the agency concerned is stretched beyond its limits. With Iran militarily and politically involved in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and extending into Europe as well and possibly the United States, not to mention Africa and South America, the pressure easily becomes apparent. It would appear this is what is happening to Iran’s dark ops agents in Europe, where Western intelligence sources say Iran is gearing up orders for its agents to carry out terrorist attacks. Tehran’s agents failed last June to detonate a bomb meant to kill prominent figures of the Iranian opposition gathering in Paris. The meeting was attended by nearly the entire hierarchy of the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, one of the main groups opposed to the rule of the Iranian clergy, and several high-profile US and European guests. The Iranian Intelligence Ministry in Tehran seems determined to infiltrate agents across Western Europe. Denmark announced it interrupted an Iranian assassination plot against Iranian dissidents in Danish territory. The countries selected by Iran appear obvious: Belgium in the first attempt and now in Denmark, smaller European countries with smaller counterintelligence services with fewer resources than say Germany or France. The timing chosen by Iran to step up its “wet op” seems counterproductive and self-defeating. These come at a time the Trump administration is instituting wider sanctions against Tehran. Iran’s actions are counterproductive because the few friends Iran maintained in the European community and who stood up for it in the face of US President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the nuclear deal in May are certain to look at Iran through a new scope — one filled with mistrust and suspicion of Tehran’s intentions. At the time the European Union denounced Trump’s decision and vowed to restore its economic relationship with Iran. Now, barely four months later, the European’s Iran policy is looking somewhat otherworldly. In July, Germany foiled another Iranian plot to bomb dissidents in Paris. Reports said then that Western intelligence services were concerned about the possibility of Iran stepping up terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. Now Denmark is asking that the European Union impose new sanctions on Iran. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s pro-Iran foreign policy chief, replied blandly that “we are following events.” Even as Iranian hit squads are believed to be setting up operations across the continent, the European Union is displaying a fundamental lack of seriousness about a country uninterested in distinctions between bombs, missiles and assassinations. This is only the beginning.
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