Officials in Tehran have claimed the capture of seventeen U.S. spies in Iran.
Security agencies “successfully dismantled a [CIA] spy network,” the head of counterintelligence at the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence told reporters in Tehran.
Apparently, Iranian authorities have wasted no time dealing with the alleged agents. “Those who deliberately betrayed the country were handed to the judiciary,” the same source said. “Some were sentenced to death and some to long-term imprisonment.”
According to the Iranian government, whoever these suspects are have already at least attempted acts against the regime. The same intelligence official said, however, that none of the seventeen, who allegedly had “sophisticated training,” had succeeded in their sabotage missions.
The current position of the Trump administration is that the claims are completely fabricated. President Trump, in a series of scathing tweets, denied the claim, calling it “totally false.”
“The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false […] Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do,” he added.
First off, it is important to highlight the irony of Iran calling out America for allegedly infiltrating agents into its territory when it itself has deployed assassins to other nations with the aim of targeting political opposition movements.
Second, whoever the Mullahs have reportedly picked up are almost certainly not U.S. spies in Iran. The much more likely version is that agents from one or more of the many rebel groups that operate against the Iranian government (such as the Sunni Jundallah or other armed leftist groups) were engaged in a plot to attack the regime. It is very possible that at some point in the recent past some of these groups may have received some form of assistance from the United States, either logistically or materially. But to suggest that actual CIA operatives were active in Iran is a stretch to say the least.