Twelve agents of the American Central Intelligence Agency have been arrested in Iran, says a senior Iranian official. It comes weeks after a similar claim by Lebanon's Hezbollah.
The Associated Press reports that the agents were allegedly operating in coordination with Israel’s Mossad and other regional agencies with targets on the country’s military and nuclear program.
“The U.S. and Zionist régimes' espionage apparatuses were trying to damage Iran both from inside and outside with a heavy blow, using regional intelligence services,” Iran’s official agency quoted a top Iranian official Parviz Sorouri as saying according to the report by the Associated Press.
“Fortunately, with swift reaction by the Iranian intelligence department, the actions failed to bear fruit,” Sorouri added.
Protecting Iran's missiles
A Senior Iran analyst believes the alleged arrest of the CIA agents is linked to efforts by Iran to protect its missile defense system.
Professor Raymond Tanter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and founder of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, told The Jerusalem Post that Iranians were moving and testing missiles “that would form the first response” to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.
“The rollup of alleged western spies in Iran involves the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” Tanter said.
He said IRGC, which operates all of Iran’s Scud missiles, provides the military leadership with Iranian missile production and that “events in Iran concern surreptitious testing and movement of missiles at an IRGC facility during mid- November to harden and hide them from surprise attack.”
Preparing for any eventuality
Tanter also added that Iran is distributing missiles around the country to prevent an easy collapse of its missile defense system in the event of an attack.
He described a recent blast at a missile base as “consistent with statements by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Tehran seeks to create a 'zone of immunity,' which spreads missile sites around the country.”
“The goals are to increase the costs of an Israeli first strike, lower the likelihood of success, and decrease the time window of opportunity for Israel to attack Iran,” the analyst added.
Isreal has reportedly threatened to attack Iran to curtail its seeming drive to attain nuclear weapons capability. Iran has however promised a street war in Tel Aviv in response.
Western powers and Israel accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons of war, a claim Iran denies.