Iran says it thwarted Mossad network targeting its defense industries

The alleged spy network operated through a company working on metal alloys for aerospace applications, according to Iranian officials.

AN IRANIAN FLAG is pictured near in a missile during a military drill, with the participation of Iran’s air defense units in October.  (West Asia News Agency/Reuters) (photo credit: WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
AN IRANIAN FLAG is pictured near in a missile during a military drill, with the participation of Iran’s air defense units in October. (West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry claimed on Sunday that it thwarted a Mossad network attempting to sabotage its defense industries, in either a blow to Israel’s spy agency or a disinformation campaign by Tehran to shift attention from its brutal crackdown on its own people over the last three months.

On one hand, the report had an unusual amount of specific and believable details relating to the alleged Mossad operations.

On the other hand, Tehran’s blatant attempt to try to connect the disclosure to alleging that Israel is behind the months of popular protests, along with a past record of false claims of arrests, left the claim in doubt.

According to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the Mossad contacted companies that work with the Islamic Republic’s defense industries in order to collect information.

The Mossad allegedly began working with a person named “Frank” who works as a sales manager for a company that supplies parts and is in contact with Iranian companies, according to the report.

 Mossad seal (credit: רונאלדיניו המלך/Wikimedia Commons) Mossad seal (credit: רונאלדיניו המלך/Wikimedia Commons)

Iranian intelligence claimed that Frank invited his employees to a seminar in Malaysia and introduced them to a man named “Hadrien,” who runs a company in Singapore that works with Iranian companies to produce carbon fiber and metal alloys.

The two worked with colleagues in Iran who identified the latest needs of the military and defense establishment in the country, according to the report.

In October, Malaysian media claimed that officials there had arrested local operatives working for the Mossad after the operatives attempted to kidnap a Hamas operative in the country. Israeli officials have not responded to the reports.

In April 2018, Malaysia accused the Mossad of the assassination of Fadi al-Batsh, an engineering lecturer and drones-and-rockets expert for Hamas who was residing in the country.

According to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, CEOs and salespeople from companies in Iran were also invited to seminars in Turkey, Thailand, Hungary, Oman and Georgia.

There, the Mossad allegedly collected intelligence from them. However, Iran’s intelligence officials said they were monitoring these attempts in parallel and arrested individuals who entered Iran in order to target “sensitive military sites.”

“Hadrien” and “Frank” are listed as officials on the website of a company in Singapore that deals with advanced alloys and composites for aerospace applications. The company also deals in materials important for the petrochemical industry. The company’s website seems not to have been updated much since around 2018.

The new claim also included a video featuring photos of the individuals accused of working with the Mossad.

In October and again last week, Turkey announced that it had captured large numbers of Mossad-affiliated agents.

The claims included astonishing arrest numbers, such as 44 persons last week and another 15 or so in October. The numbers appear very high for the clandestine agency to be handling all at the same time.

PARADOXICALLY, TURKISH intelligence and the Mossad have worked together multiple times in recent years to thwart terrorist attacks on Turkish soil.

Even if some or many of the arrests in Iran and Turkey are not actual Mossad agents – such announcements are often a convenient cover for taking down political competitors – the multiple waves of announced arrests of Mossad agents in multiple countries in a short amount of time is unusual.

Past attacks on Iran's aerospace industry blamed on the US and Israel

Iran’s aerospace industry has been the target of a series of alleged Israeli and American sabotage efforts in the past decade, according to Iranian reports.

In November 2011, an explosion hit a missile base in Biganeh, killing at least 17 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including Professor Hassan Moghaddam, Brig.-Gen. Abdollah Mehrabi’s predecessor in running Iran’s ballistic missile program. While the explosion was initially reported as an accident, Western media, including The Guardian and Time magazine, reported that the incident was being blamed on the Mossad.

In 2019, a rocket being tested at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran exploded on the launch pad, according to satellite imagery published by National Public Radio.

In February 2019, then-Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC it was possible that there was a US campaign to sabotage Iranian satellite launches, as the country had already conducted two failed launches that year.

In June 2020, an explosion was reported near Tehran, with Iranian officials claiming that industrial gas tanks near Parchin had exploded. But Western analyses found that the explosion likely took place at the missile production sites in the Khojir area, including facilities used to produce both solid-propellant and liquid-fuel missiles.

In September 2021, a fire broke out at the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group missile base in Karaj, near Tehran, killing two workers and injuring one at the facility. The IRGC-affiliated Sobh-e-Sadegh newspaper later reported that the fire was caused by an Israeli attack.

In June of this year, an explosion shook western Tehran, with satellite imagery shared by the Intelli Times website appearing to show damage to the roof of a structure at the Shahid Hemmat Base, indicating that the base had been targeted for a second time.

Also in June, Iranian officials announced that two members of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force had been killed while “carrying out their mission” in Iran. Shortly after one of the members was killed, satellite imagery revealed that preparations for a space launch were being conducted at the site at which he was killed.

In September of this year, a member of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force was killed during a “mission” in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province in southeastern Iran.

In 2018, the Mossad took credit for seizing Iran’s secret nuclear records from the heart of Tehran, under the noses of Iranian security.

Iran and foreign reports have credited Israel with blowing up nuclear facilities at Natanz in July 2020 and April 2021; at Karaj in June 2021; with assassinating nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November 2020; and with assisting America in the intelligence realm regarding the US killing of IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani.