Timing is Everything
Last week, the internet was flooded with the news of an alleged MI6 spy in Iran.
Although spying is a lonely business by nature, the alleged British spy was not alone for long: the plight of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent reportedly spying for the CIA who disappeared back in 2007 “conveniently” resurfaced. Suddenly, it looked like Iran was under attack by Western spies.
Timing could not have been better for hardliners in Tehran: following the “nuclear deal” in November in Geneva, diplomatic relations between Iran and the West began to thaw.
After two years of diplomatic vacuum between London and Tehran since the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran diplomats were exchanged. Washington, which severed ties with Iran back in 1979, warmed diplomatic relations right from the top with calls to President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.
Although incomplete, the “nuclear deal” and the resulting diplomatic efforts were far from welcomed by these same hardliners. Foreign Minister Zarif’s “triumphant” deal came under fire back home and the US’s issue of new sanctions played right into their hands. According to them, Tehran does not need a “nuclear deal” and nor does it need diplomatic relations with the West…what it needs is its national pride and freedom in its nuclear program.
Spies Feed PR Campaigns
Just as London and Washington went into “no-comment” mode, trying to distance themselves from the alleged spies, Tehran began spreading information selectively in order to turn these two cases into a well-constructed PR event.
In regards to the MI6 spy, the information disseminated is selective: Apart from the fact that he has already “confessed” and undergoing trial, his identity is still hidden and the nature of his mission ranges from gathering information on the highly contested nuclear program to information on oil shipping. Since he was apprehended in the province that does not boast any nuclear facilities nor access to the sea, both of these allegations seem suspicious in themselves but Tehran is sticking to its guns.
As to the Levinson, the American “spy”, the CIA has deemed him a “rogue” agent and is trying to hush things up while Tehran is happily feeding the media with tit-bits and pictures that seem to strengthen the case against Levinson and the CIA.
Bottom line – the “spies” are an embarrassment for the UK and the US but seem to be welcomed by the chiefs in Tehran who are not ready to accept purely legitimate diplomatic efforts. For them, these “spies”, whether guilty or not, are a glowing justification to keep Iran isolated.
The fact that Tehran’s own diplomatic efforts often cross legal boundaries is irrelevant because the ends do justify their means.
- Captured ‘MI6 agent’ will go on trial in Iran: Threat to thawing relations as suspect is accused of spying for UK intelligence (dailymail.co.uk)
- ‘MI6 agent’ was spying on Iran oil shipping, officials claim (theiranproject.com)