ANALYSIS: Sleeper cells to terror plots, Iranian footprint across US, Europe

Reza Shafiee
Reza Shafiee - Special to Al Arabiya English
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After years of laying low and playing it safe, the Iranian regime has changed course in the summer. Some sleeper cells, first in Europe and then in the US, have reportedly received orders from handlers in Tehran.

The US Justice Department announced two arrests on America soil on August 20. Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar a 38-year-old man born and bred in America and from Iranian immigrant parents was one of them. The second man was identified as Majid Ghorbani a US permanent resident living in California.

The two are said to have been charged with spying on members and supporters of Iran’s main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

In his arraignment hearing, Doostdar’s attorney asked the judge for his release on bail arguing his entire family is in the US and therefore he is not a flight risk. But the judge refused to release him.

The Iranian regime cannot be trusted in any way in such matters. Its track record speaks for itself in helping his agents escape or seek refuge in Iranian regime’s embassies after their terrorist operation. This happened in Vienna in 1989.

The main target according to the statement is members and supporters of main Iranian opposition the People’s Mojahedin organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). “On or about Sept. 20, 2017, Ghorbani is alleged to have attended a MEK rally in New York City, during which he photographed individuals participating in the protest against the current Iranian regime.

In December 2017, Doostdar returned to the United States from Iran and made contact with Ghorbani in the Los Angeles area. During the meeting, Doostdar paid Ghorbani approximately $2,000 in cash and Ghorbani delivered to him 28 photographs taken at the September 2017 MEK rally, many of which contained hand-written annotations identifying the individuals who appeared in the photos.

Maryam Rajavi, (C) founder of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) speaks on June 27, 2014 in Villepinte. (AFP)
Maryam Rajavi, (C) founder of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) speaks on June 27, 2014 in Villepinte. (AFP)

These photographs, along with a hand-written receipt for $2000, were found concealed in Doostdar’s luggage as he transited a US airport on his return to Iran in December 2017,” the statement added.

It also says: ‘The indictment also alleges that Ghorbani traveled to Iran in or about March 2018, after informing Doostdar that he would be going to Iran to conduct an “in-person briefing.” Thereafter, on or about May 4, Ghorbani attended the MEK-affiliated 2018 Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington, D.C.

During the course of the conference, Ghorbani appeared to photograph certain speakers and attendees, which included delegations from across the United States. On May 14, Doostdar called Ghorbani to discuss clandestine methods Ghorbani should use in order to provide this information to Iran.”

Since early summer, the Iranian regime lost all hope of hiding its true intentions for entering the nuclear deal with the West. It removed the mask and showed its ugly face.

In late June, distant memories of Iranian regime’s capabilities in terrorism craft came to life when one of its top diplomats caught red handed in plotting a major terrorist attack on the big annual rally of Iran’s main opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Paris.

Austrian soldiers stand guard outside the Iran ambassador’s residence in Vienna, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Austrian soldiers stand guard outside the Iran ambassador’s residence in Vienna, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)

According to Reuters, on August 28, the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement cautioning its diplomats to stay away from Iran unless its absolutely necessary: “The memo cites a foiled plot to bomb a rally held by an exiled Iranian opposition group near Paris that was attended by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani as a sign of Tehran’s more aggressive stance towards France.”

Germany apprehended a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat who stands accused of actually providing the explosives to a Belgian-Iranian couple missioned to carry out the attack. Belgium, where the plot was uncovered, is seeking the diplomat’s extradition.

“The behavior of the Iranian authorities suggests a hardening of their position vis-a-vis our country, as well as some of our allies,” Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, the ministry’s secretary general wrote in the Aug. 20 notice.

“Given the known security risks ... all departmental officers, whether from headquarters or (overseas) posts, are required to defer until further notice, except for urgent work, any travel plans in Iran,” Gourdault-Montagne added.

Terror machine

With arrest made on American soil, it is abundantly clear that the regime is after its main enemy: the Mojahedin. Make no mistake that the clerical regime since its inception has always consider the MEK a vital threat to its existence.

The Revolutionary Guards top brass day in, day out hardly miss any opportunity to warn against MEK’s involvement in galvanizing the protests in Iran. Since January and new round of nationwide protests in Iran, the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei openly pointed his blaming finger at the MEK for leading the protests.

The regime’s officials regret missing the opportunity to wipe out the MEK members in Iraq. Now that they have moved to Albania IRGC is having a hard time terrorizing them. A statement issued by the NCRI’s Security and Antiterrorism Committee drops the curtain on the IRGC and Quds Forces’ intentions of dealing with the MEK threat.

The statement says: “The regime’s Supreme Security Council, in an instruction to the Ministry of Intelligence, the terrorist Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence and other agencies involved in export of terrorism and fundamentalism, ordered them to take further measures to spy on the PMOI and the Iranian Resistance and to set the stage for terrorist acts. The Ministry of Intelligence stations in various European countries were ordered to collect more information from movements and activities and to use more resources.”
History with the theocratic regime in Tehran shows that toughness is the key in dealing with it.
Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.

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