Iran claims to arrest “Israeli spy”

Iran is claiming that it has arrested an Israeli espionage agent and a number of others accused of maintaining contact with foreign intelligence services.

State media in the Islamic Republic citing an unnamed Intelligence Ministry official first reported the incident yesterday but failed to identify either the source or the nationality of any of the suspects.

“An Israeli spy has been arrested in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province … also other spies who were in contact with several countries’ intelligence services have been arrested as well,” read the report.

Israeli officials have not commented on the matter.

An Iranian convicted of spying for Israel and the United States was executed in 2020. Also last year, Israel’s Shin Bet Security Agency has charged a 50-year-old citizen with spying on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran has long vowed to annihilate the Jewish State. It has also frequently accused its arch-foe of being behind acts of sabotage and assassinations of nuclear scientists. These allegations include the killing of Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last year, who was seen by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of Tehran’s covert nuclear weapons program.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the killing.

Tehran has denied pursuit of an atomic arsenal, and maintains all of its nuclear development is purely for peaceful purposes.

Iran also accused Israel of involvement in last month’s attack on the Iranian Shahr e Kord container ship in the Mediterranean last week. “Considering the geographical location and the way the ship was targeted, one of the strong possibilities is that this terrorist operation was carried out by the Zionist regime (Israel),” the semi-official Nournews cited a member of the Iranian team investigating the incident as saying.

That incident came in the wake of an explosion aboard an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman overnight 25-26 February, for which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly placed blame on Iran.  The MV Helios Ray was hit by a blast above the water line, ripping holes in both sides of the hull of the vehicle-carrier ship but inflicting no casualties. “This was indeed an operation by Iran. That is clear,” said Netanyahu to the public Kan radio station at the time.

The US has blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, most notably in 2019 against 4 vessels that included 2 Saudi oil tankers. Iran has also denied carrying out those attacks.

At the start of 2021, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seized the  South Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi tanker in Gulf waters and detained its crew, amid rising hostility with Washington-ally Seoul over frozen Iranian funds in the Asian nation’s banks due to US sanctions.