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Austrian capital ‘filled with Iranian spies’
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
14/01/2013
US report finds the Islamic Republic’s agents are working in Vienna to secure nuclear technology and suppress dissent.
 
BERLIN – The Austrian capital is a main European hub for Tehran’s spy network, the US-based Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress concluded in December in a comprehensive report on Iranian intelligence activities.

The report was conducted with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program and unleashed a flurry of reports in the Austrian media last week.

According to the US study, “Vienna... is allegedly full of MOIS [Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security] agents. It is because of the continuous good relationship between Iran and Austria since the Revolution – after the US hostage crisis – which resulted in condemnation of the Islamic Republic by many countries and secluded Iran in many ways. Austria was one of the few countries that was not concerned.”

“It appears that Iran takes advantage of this relationship by deploying its intelligence officers in Austria. It has been reported that MOIS agents identify anti–Islamic Republic political activists and threaten to silence them,” the report said.

The MOIS is responsible for suppressing dissent in the Islamic Republic among opposition groups and among the large diaspora Iranian community, according to Iranian dissidents and experts. Iranian reform groups consider the MOIS a ruthless apparatus of Iran’s government.

In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a spokesman for Austria’s Interior Ministry, wrote via email that the domestic intelligence agency Verfassungsschutz cannot issue a comment beyond the information contained in the agency’s report, and referred the Post to the agency’s intelligence analysis.

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According to the most recent report, “In the period under review, concrete proliferation [and] relevant activities were observed in connection with North Korea and Iran. Some of these activities ended in convictions.”

The report further noted that, “it can be assumed that these developments will continue in 2012 and that the conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran will intensify.”

Iranian dissident groups and experts say the Austrian authorities permit Iran’s intelligence agents wide movement in Vienna, including the ability to operate money laundering operations and acquire technology for Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.

Iranian agent Hamid Reza Amirinia, a senior departmental director from Iran’s Center for Innovation and Technology Cooperation, was the subject of media reports last year because of his alleged money laundering in Vienna. The US Treasury Department has sanctioned both the agent and the Iranian center for illicit nuclear proliferation activity.

In an interview with the Post, Dr. Wahied Wahdat- Hagh, a prominent German- Iranian scholar in the Federal Republic, questioned “why Europe’s intelligence agencies do not actively take action against the deadly spies of Iran’s dictator.”

Wahdat-Hagh, a senior fellow with the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, said Iran’s spies threaten opposition groups in exile and plan potential murder operations targeting Iranian dissidents in Europe. “The Iranian espionage activities are so powerful because they know that the European countries tolerate them,” commented Wahdat-Hagh.
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