Leaked South African Intelligence Docs Reveal Iranian Efforts to Bypass Sanctions Using Civilian Covers
Recently published classified documents from South African intelligence have shed light on Tehran’s efforts to set down roots in Africa, Israel’s NRG reported on Wednesday.
While the leaked documents note that South African intelligence does not see Iran as a great threat to their country, and points out that Tehran is not trying to import its Revolution or establish Shi’a Islam in South Africa, there are other efforts that the Islamic Republic is undertaking to take advantage of resources in South Africa to bypass international sanctions, and these actions have local intelligence worried, according to the report.
South African intelligence has devoted a large amount of resources to monitor Iran’s activities in the country. This is despite the fact South Africa still wants to maintain good relations with Iran, but also finds itself in a bind to maintain its friendly relations with Western powers.
Reports sent from Israel’s Mossad and Britain’s MI6 detail how Iran is using local businesses to hide its acquisition of materials necessary for developing nuclear weapons capability.
South African intelligence also collected reports on local Iranian agents, and suspects members of the diplomatic corps, journalists and members of the Iranian business community in Africa of operating as agents of the Islamic Republic. The South African report even notes that many Persian rug stores have been used as covers for secret intelligence activities by the Iranian government.
The report discusses one incident in which one agent who was under the influence of alcohol admitted that he was a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and that he used his rug store as a “meeting place with Iranians, including the country’s diplomatic staff in South Africa.”
One 2010 document shows that Iranian intelligence had been using various other civilian covers, including an Iranian news agency, the country’s national airline, its shipping services, and much more.
Among other things, these Iranian spies were making contact with citizens of the country considered to be extremists, and who maintained ties with Hezbollah and Hamas cells in certain target countries, or who recruited people to join them.
One of the more troubling details was the shipment of arms to Iranian embassies, “both the Ministry of Intelligence and the revolutionary committees have used diplomatic tags in order to send weapons to Iranian embassies overseas,” the report said. These weapons are “then stored in the embassies, with full knowledge of the local ambassadors.”
The next step, according to the intelligence report, was to train terrorist cells in various missions against specific targets, which are usually “Israeli or American.” By using local terrorist cells, South African intelligence noted, the Iranians can claim that they are not involved in the subsequent incidents.
The report noted that this, for example, was how between 1989 and 2002, 24 agents carried out accurate and well-planned assassinations in Europe and Turkey, which were personally approved by the Iranian president or the country’s spiritual leader.