Defector accuses Iran of running sleeper cells in Gulf

Posted in Iran , Broader Middle East | 16-Sep-08 | Source: Gulf in the Media

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards march during an annual military parade in Tehran, 2007.

Iran runs a network of agents in the six Arab monarchies of the Gulf that could be used to destabilise the region, a senior defector charged in an interview published in Dubai on Monday.

Adel al-Assadi, who was consul general in Dubai with the rank of ambassador before defecting in 2001, said Shiite Iran's Revolutionary Guards started to set up the sleeper cells right after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Tehran.

"Iran has an undercover presence in the six GCC countries," he told the Gulf News, referring to the grouping of Sunni-ruled Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

"I think Tehran has enough manpower to destabilise the GCC countries, which is bad news," said Assadi, who was based in Dubai, a member of the UAE federation with a sizeable Iranian community.

Iran "used to send them (agents) through a third country," said the former diplomat who the Gulf News said now lives in Sweden where he has been granted political asylum. No other state was named.

"I have no reason to think that this policy has stopped because the practice of recruiting agents in the Gulf is deeply rooted in the way the intelligence institution is operating and is considered a strong point for Iran."

Assadi, without giving numbers, said that some of the agents were only tasked with collecting information but others were trained to stir unrest at the chosen time.

A senior Gulf official last month slammed an Iranian deputy minister for questioning the legitimacy of the pro-Western Arab monarchies in the region, saying such remarks could only fuel tensions.

"They can only stoke conflicts and drag the region into a cycle of dangerous crises," Gulf Cooperation Council chief Abdurrahman al-Attiyah said.

He was reacting to a statement by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi in which he predicted the downfall of the oil-rich Arab monarchies.

Attiyah's hard-hitting response came a day after Kuwait chided Iran for threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the vital Gulf oil supply route, amid persisting tensions in the region over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.