Iran claimed on Saturday that it had arrested all members of a sabotage team sent by Israel through the Iraqi border, following months of mysterious attacks.
A short announcement from the Intelligence Ministry said, “A network from the spy agency of the Zionist regime who were sent to the country for terrorist operations” were identified and arrested.
"This network's members were in contact with (Israel's) Mossad spy agency through a neighbouring country and entered Iran from (Iraq's) Kurdistan region with advanced equipment and strong explosives,"
Since March, Iran has at least three times made similar claims without presenting any evidence or information about what investigators discovered from the persons allegedly detained.
The last instance was on June 14, when the state broadcaster released a video claiming that criminals who were working for Mossad and planning kidnappings and assassinations were arrested. The report called these individuals “thugs and hooligans” and claimed they were involved in a wide range of criminal activities including human and weapons trafficking before being recruited by Israeli agents.
The intelligence ministry’s announcement came two days after Iran International in an exclusive report on July 21 said that Israel’s Mossad had captured a senior Revolutionary Guard official on Iranian soil and interrogated him about weapons shipments to Iran’s proxies in the region. After the interrogation the man was released.
Iran International had obtained video of the interrogation showing a man introducing himself as Yadollah Khedmati, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Logistics, says he regrets his involvement in shipping weapons to Iran’s proxy groups in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen and urges other IRGC officials to avoid engagement in such activities.
Iranian government media on Saturday confirmed the report, saying that criminal elements had indeed detained the IRGC officer.
Since mid-2020 a series of high-profile mysterious attacks hit Iran’s nuclear and military installations around the country, widely believed to have been Israeli sabotage operations. In November 2020, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a key figure in Iran’s controversial nuclear program was assassinated in a complex operation on the outskirts of Tehran. His killing resembled more a Hollywood thriller, with a heavy, remotely controlled gun mounted in the back of a pickup truck that fired on Fakhrizadeh’s car on a highway.
In May, several IRGC officials were killed or died in suspicious circumstances, prompting Tehran to blame Israel, which has never officially taken credit for these operations.
In June, a major reshuffling of IRGC intelligence and counter-intelligence leadership took place, widely attributed to reported Israeli infiltration and the inability of Iran’s security bodies to deal with the situation.
The intelligence ministry’s announcement can be an attempt to show that Iran is not hapless in the face of repeated acts of sabotage. It can always detain criminals and showcase them as spies or saboteurs with no follow-up information later, as has been the case over the years.
The announcement did not say how many people were arrested and did not divulge their nationality. The network planned "acts of sabotage and unprecedented terrorist operations in sensitive locations", its statement said, without giving details.