The details of the operation are not clear. How many’“Agents” have been arrested ? What nationality are they? We do not know. Still, Iran assures us that they were working on behalf of Israel. Iranian intelligence ministry announced their arrests “after (they are) entered by the western border of the country ” Tuesday July 27 on state television. The authorities have reportedly got hold of a “Cache of weapons and ammunition” containing pistols, grenades, shotguns, AK-47 rifles and ammunition which they claim “Mossad agents (the Israeli intelligence service, Editor’s note) planned to use during urban riots and for assassinations”.
This crackdown comes as the province of Khuzestan, in the southwest of the country, has been shaken for ten days by demonstrations against water shortages. Other rallies protesting the regime and power shortages have also sprung up here and there across the country.
→ CONTEXT. Southwestern Iran facing thirst riots
Tehran regularly accuses its enemies – the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia in the lead – of wanting to destabilize the country by sowing trouble during demonstrations. But these ” foreign elements are more an alibi than a foundation ”, says Jonathan Piron, Iran specialist at the Belgian research center Etopia, based in Brussels.
Scapegoat for demonstrations
Since July 15, the date of the first demonstrations of thirst, videos have been circulating on social networks showing Iranian security forces shooting at the crowd in “Live bullets” and with “Shot”, according to Amnesty International. The NGO counts at least eight dead among the demonstrators, including a teenager. A police officer was also reportedly killed. Iranian authorities deny responsibility and accuse “Opportunists” and “Rioters” to be the source of the shots.
“There have been a series of statements about the involvement of foreign agents in the protests, including Saudi-backed groups and the People’s Mojahedin (MEK) (an opposition group in exile banned since 1981 and considered by Tehran as “terrorist”, Editor’s note), observes Jonathan Piron. It is convenient for the regime to arrest ringleaders and quell the current protests. “
As of Thursday, July 29, the Israeli authorities still had not reacted to the alleged arrest of their agents. This is not the first time that Israel has been accused by Iran of maneuvering on its territory. The Hebrew state is suspected of being behind the sabotage of the Natanz nuclear site in 2020 and 2021 such as the assassination of several Iranian scientists.
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One week before the handover of power from outgoing President Hassan Rohani to his successor Ebrahim Raïssi, the message is twofold. This crackdown allows Tehran “To show that the intelligence services are functioning well”, first analyzes Pierre Razoux, academic director of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES). Next, “This testifies to a desire to tighten the bolts to put the responsibility for these failures (Iranian intelligence, editor’s note) on the back of the Rohani government, which spent too much time negotiating with the Americans on nuclear power and not enough ensure internal security. “