Iran says it has broken up a CIA (its headquarters pictured) spy ring, arrested 17 people, and sentenced some of them to death, a claim dismissed by the US as “totally false”, agencies report.
Director-general of Iranian intelligence ministry’s counter-espionage department said the 17 professional spies, all of them locals, infiltrated economic, nuclear, infrastructural, defence and cyber departments or units of state and private sectors to steal sensitive data.
Some of the arrested Iranians spied for the US in exchange of promises to grant them visas, green cards, citizenship and lucrative jobs, said the official who did not want to be identified.
Such promises were never fulfilled by Washington, the official said.
Since these enticements are illegal in the US, several other spies escaped the spy ring by taking the legal route, he added.
The death sentence against some of the arrested spies will be carried out soon, a judicial spokesman, Gholam Hossein Esmaili, said.
Those convicted of espionage face death sentence under Iran’s laws.
Last month, Iran claimed it had dismantled a large US cyber-espionage network run by the CIA. Media then played down the announcement as mere propaganda.
According to Tehran, the US espionage against Iran has intensified after President Donald Trump took office.
Trump dismissed Tehran’s latest claim of busting the CIA-run Iranian spy ring as mere fiction.
The “failing religious regime” of Iran is spreading lies such as the break-up of the spy ring and the downing of a US spy drone in its territorial waters last month. The country’s economy is in a total mess and its leaders are bereft of ideas to revive it, Trump tweeted.
Iran’s announcement of the busting of the spy ring comes amid rising tensions in the Gulf.
Trump almost approved an airstrike on Iranian targets last month after Iran’s revolutionary guards shot down a US drone in the Strait of Hormuz.
Britain has been holding a series of emergency meetings to formulate an action plan after Iran seized its oil tanker Stena Impero following its alleged collision with a fishing vessel in the Strait of Hormuz despite distress calls from the boat crew.
Earlier this month, Britain’s Royal Navy Marines offered technical help to Gibraltar police and port officials to conduct raids on an Iranian super-tanker carrying millions of barrels of oil to Syria defying sanctions on the war-torn country.
Gibraltar is an offshore territory of Britain and the marines’ action infuriated Iran which has demanded the immediate release of their ship.
Britain views the seizure of its oil tanker as a tit-for-tat response from Iran. Its foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Iran of the “dangerous path” it was treading adding that Tehran will have to face the consequences.
As the war of words between Iran and Britain rages, the European Union is trying to avert a potential armed conflict between Iran and Britain.
The US too is in an attacking mood. Without tangible proof, it has blamed Iran for several attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf.
Iran has dismissed such allegations by the US as mere provocations instigated by its allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal was going smoothly when Trump abruptly walked away from the deal without any giving any valid reason and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic republic.
He also announced sanctions against nations that help Iran in tiding over the international sanctions and provide the country with materials for making nuclear weapons.
Earlier this month, Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium exceeded the 300-kilogram limits agreed upon in the 2015 nuclear deal.
On July 14, Iran impounded an oil tanker carrying 1 million litres of smuggled fuel in the Strait of Hormuz.
Four days later, American naval ship USS Boxer destroyed an Iranian drone which flew dangerously close to the vessel.
Iran has denied any knowledge of the incident.