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On this week’s news show we look the recent headlines concerning Iran – their arrest of 17 CIA spies, and the seizure of oil tankers by both the British and the Iranians. Who and what should we believe?

  1. Iran detains 17 citizens accused of spying for the CIA
  2. Iran Executes Defense Ministry Staffer Over Spying for CIA
  • People want us to talk about Brexit but it’s more like a series, not something we could tackle in an hour. 
  • Although we should talk about Boris Johnson becoming the new British PM. 
  • Maybe with Trevor Bell next week. 
  • Iran is still in the news. 
  • Oil tankers being seized by both the British and Iran 
  • Detained 17 Iranian citizens they accuse of spying for the CIA 
  • Is it true?
  • What does it mean? 
  • How would they detect these people?
  • Iran claims “Defendants serving their sentences in prison mentioning tempting promises of CIA officers including emigration to USA, a proper job in America, and money,”
  • Others were already in possession of visas and were reportedly pressured to spy for the US in order to have them renewed.
  • Iran claimed that the 17 spies did not know each other, but all had been trained independently in clandestine tradecraft.
  • The training allegedly included setting up and using secret communications systems, as well as carrying out dead drops without being detected.
  • Dead drops utilised containers made to resemble rocks, which were located in the Iranian countryside and elsewhere in the Middle East, according to Iranian officials.
  • Some of the assets communicated with their handlers while attending science conferences throughout Europe, Africa and Asia.
  • All of the above are standard methods of the espionage trade.
  • Losing 17 assets in one big sweep sounds fantastical.
  • If it is true, it would mark one of the biggest intelligence-collection disasters in the CIA’s 72-year history.
  • Furthermore, given that — as the Iranians themselves have said — the 17 alleged spies did not know each other. It would have taken a massive amount of counter-intelligence resources to detect, build cases and apprehend 17 separate foreign assets.
  • What is more likely to have happened is that the Iranians detected a small number of CIA spies — possibly no more than two — and then slowly extended their counter-intelligence investigation to incorporate those two individuals’ close associates, personal friends, or even relatives.
  • Donald Trump denied it on Twitter.
  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The Iranian regime has a long history of lying … I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions they’ve taken.”
  • Says the guy who’s country claimed Saddam had WMD. 
  • Says the guy who was the Director of the CIA in 2017/18. 
  • And probably authorised the recruitment of spies in Iran at the time. 
  • According to Al Jazeera‘s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said Iranian authorities also released a documentary which they said “shows to which extent these people went to try and exchange information with their CIA operatives outside the country”.
  • Contains photos and documents according to American ABC News.
  • What is more worrying for the CIA is that the Iranians appear to have visually identified a number of CIA case officers, whose job is to recruit and handle foreign assets.
  • These are official-cover diplomatic personnel who are stationed in countries such as Austria, India, Turkey and Zimbabwe.
  • But the Iranians claim that these diplomats are in fact official-cover CIA personnel and have now publicised their names and faces.
  • At one point during Monday’s television program, a blonde Caucasian woman is seen advising an unidentified man about how to avoid surveillance by Iranian intelligence officers in the United Arab Emirates.
  • She is heard speaking Farsi with an unmistakable American accent.
  • If the Iranians are right, it means that the mysterious Farsi-speaking woman, along with several other individuals, will need to be recalled back to Washington as soon as possible.
  • It also means that their overseas careers are now at an end, since foreign counter-intelligence services know that they are in fact not diplomats, but intelligence officers.
  • One suggestion is that Iran might use the threat of a death sentence against these spies as a bargaining chip with the US
  • But if they are all Iranian citizens, why would the US care? 
  • This isn’t the first time in recent history that Iran has claimed to have arrested US spies. 
  • In April, Iran said it uncovered 290 CIA spies both inside and outside the country over the past years.
  • In June they hanged a former staff member of the Defense Ministry’s aerospace division, Seyyed Jamal Haji-Zavareh, on charges of spying for the CIA.
  • He supposedly “explicitly confessed to spying” in return for money
  • “documents and espionage devices were found at his house.”
  • His wife was also sentenced to 15 years in prison for her alleged role in the operation.
  • In 2016, Iran executed a nuclear scientist convicted of spying for the United States.
  • Now let’s ask: is it possible that the CIA has been recruiting Iranians to spy for them? 
  • Yes. 
  • Is it probable? 
  • Yes. That’s what the CIA does for a living. 
  • According to JOSEPH FITSANAKIS, Associate Professor, Politics at Coastal Carolina University, who specializes in international espionage: 
  • “There is no question that the Central Intelligence Agency recruits heavily among Iranians.”
  • Typically the CIA recruits foreign “assets” through the use of what are known as official-cover officers — “handlers” who masquerade as diplomats and strike friendships with local people around the world.
  • These officers enjoy diplomatic immunity. They can be expelled from the host country, but are generally protected from prosecution if caught engaging in espionage.
  • However, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the US has had no diplomatic presence — and thus no official-cover officers — stationed anywhere in Iran.
  • This has made it immeasurably more difficult for the spy agency to collect accurate information from local sources.
  • Now let’s assume for a moment that it’s true.
  • Compare this to the uproar in the US that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election. 
  • Huge uproar. 
  • But when the US is accused of trying to recruit spies in Iran, the US media tends to dismiss it. 
  • Or accept it as business as usual. 
  • Why the double standard? 
  • It’s because when WE do it, it’s okay. 
  • When the other side does it, it’s a travesty. 

  • Have a listen to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talk about economic sanctions from a recent interview with PBS Newshour 
  • Listen to his response to Trump’s claims that Iran want to build a bomb and are the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. 
  • Who sounds more sane? 
  • This guy or Trump? 

  • Another place the US-Iran conflict could blow up is in Iraq. 
  • Last week there was an explosion at an Iran-aligned Shiite militia base in an obscure corner of Iraq.
  • Theories are that it was a US or Israeli strike. 
  • The Iraqi military said the base had been hit by a grenade dropped from a drone—a relatively unsophisticated style of attack that ISIS often deploys and that anyone with a consumer drone and some mechanical skill could carry out.
  • Then, on Monday, an Iraqi media report said the militia had launched its own investigation into the explosion and determined it was caused by a fire.
  • The US still has 5200 troops stationed in Iraq. 
  • The current Prime Minister of Iraq is Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
  • a former member of the powerful Shi’a party the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, or SIIC, based in Iran during the Saddam years. 
  • the son of a Shiite cleric who was a minister in Iraq’s monarchy.
  • The current President of Iraq is Barham Salih, a Kurd. 
  • Iraq is 95% Muslim: 64–69% Shia and 10-15% Sunni.
  • And Iran of course is the base of Shia in the world. 
  • a Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson told Bloomberg that “Iran must respect the sovereignty of Iraq and other regional states, cease destabilizing activities in the region, and refrain from actions that inflame sectarian tensions or empower extremists.”
  • “destabilizing”. 
  • Iraq is next door to Iran, hell they used to be the same country, and two-thirds of the population are Shia. 
  • The US has NOTHING in common with Iraq, overthrew its government in an illegal war and still has 5200 troops on the ground. 
  • Yet IRAN is the one who is destabilizing.
  • Last week Iran’s Revolutionary Guard took over the British ship Stena Impero as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz.
  • The Stena Impero flies under the British flag.
  • That means it is registered in the United Kingdom and Britain is responsible for safety inspections.
  • The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it seized the Stena Impero Friday for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait.
  • The tanker was impounded off Bandar Abbas port – a port city and capital of Hormozgān Province on the southern coast of Iran –  for allegedly failing to respond to distress calls and turning off its transponder after colliding with a fishing vessel.
  • Iranian officials have told the press this was a response to the seizure of an Iranian ship near Gibraltar by the British Royal Marines on July 4, calling it a legal “reciprocal action.”
  • On July 4, Britain’s Royal Marines seized the Grace 1, an Iranian ship flagged out of Panama, near Gibraltar.
  • It was carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil from Iran.
  • Begs the question: who has the right to sieze a ship?
  • Britain’s United Nations mission sent a letter to the UN Security Council on Saturday asserting that a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran was in Omani territorial waters and the incident “constitutes illegal interference.”
  • “The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” read the letter.
  • “International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.”
  • So by what right did Britain seize the Iranian ship? 
  • Is Iran governed by EU sanctions? 
  • Can the EU prevent trade between Iran and Syria? 
  • By what right? 
  • Britain claimed the seizure of the Iranian ship was authorised by the “firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria sanctions regime.”
  • Gibraltar, located just off of Spain, is a British Overseas Territory.
  • Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell stated that the detention was carried out at the request of the United States.
  • An Iranian Foreign Ministry official calling the seizure “piracy,” stating that the UK does not have the right to implement sanction against other nations “in an extraterritorial manner”.
  • But you don’t see this discussed in the MSM. 

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