Secret services in Iran uncovered a 17-member spy ring working against the country, according to state-affiliated media. Some of the agents have been given capital punishment.
All the suspects in question were arrested by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
They were working as private contractors “in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” the report said.
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Some of the suspected agents were allegedly recruited by CIA officers while applying for US visas. Others were approached on the sidelines of scientific events in European, African, and Asian countries.
DEVELOPING: #Iran says it arrested 17 people who were part of, what officials called, a CIA spy ring; Says accused were stationed in "sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas"; US has not responded #LiveDesk pic.twitter.com/28Tkkf1GxV
— Dan Snyder (@DanSnyderFOX25) July 22, 2019
Tehran did not say when the spy ring was exposed, but said the arrests were made throughout the last Iranian calendar year, which ended in March 2019.
It is reported that they were also equipped with top-notch communication gear which they used to hand over intelligence to their American handlers.
The long-running animosity between Iran and the US began to mount after the US unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) last year and reinstated tighter economic sanctions on Tehran. Iran responded in kind, curbing some of its commitments under the deal, claiming European signatories of the deal did not do enough to protect its economy from Washington.
Tensions peaked in May after the US deployed additional military assets to the Middle East. In June, Iran shot down a US Navy surveillance drone, saying it had strayed into its airspace. And on Saturday, the White House reported the downing of an Iranian drone which approached the USS Boxer, a claim denied by the Iranians.
Iran is also in a tough spot with the UK, after the Revolutionary Guard seized a British oil tanker that was violating its waters. The UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has said that the UK is considering sanctions on Iran.
RT with additional input from GVS News Desk