Intelligence: Inventing Victories


April 4, 2014: In late March Iran announced that someone tried to sabotage their Arak research reactor by tampering with a mechanical component but that this was foiled by security as were several other unspecified attacks. No details were provided and Israel (the usual suspect for this sort of thing in Iran) was not blamed. This was unusual because the Iranian government has been obsessed with exacting revenge against the United States and Israel for many real or imagined attacks. This is not a secret obsession, but a very public one with the matter frequently being mentioned in speeches and articles by senior leaders.

Few revenge efforts have succeeded, one of the exceptions being some Cyber War operations. This was in the form of more Internet based attacks coming out of Iran. This is not high-grade stuff, but the kind of Cyber War weapons you can find (for free or a fee) on the Internet. But at least it gets the government some media attention. While most Iranians hate their government, they are nationalistic and love revenge for attacks (like Stuxnet) on Iran. The Iranian government appears to be inventing foiled attacks to ease the concerns of Iranians who wonder, often out loud, why all this talk of revenge has not led to some actual revenge.

It’s not that Iran hasn’t tried. Back in 2012 Iran said it had arrested twenty suspects and charged them with responsibility for the deaths of five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2010. The government accused Israel of being responsible for all this but has not made public any proof. Meanwhile investigations continued into Iranian anti-Israeli terror attacks that took place in India, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Thailand during February 2012. Iran denied any involvement and insisted that it was all another Israeli plot. This ambitious series of attacks (that didn't kill anyone) led to over a dozen arrests and lots of other evidence linking the perpetrators to Iran.

While Iranian terrorists (Quds Force) has been active in many places (Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, South America, Arabian Peninsula, and so on) its operatives are often amateurish and ineffective. When Iranian operatives are caught overseas, Iran demands its citizens back and just denies any terrorist activity. But the 2012 operations against Israelis living outside Israel have apparently stretched Quds beyond the breaking point. The 2012 attacks were believed to be an attempt to avenge Israeli agents carrying out several murders of Iranian nuclear scientists. But Quds has not been able to deliver when it came to retribution. This is not surprising, as religious fanaticism is more prized among Quds Force recruits than other talents. Some Quds operatives are very sharp but all of them are Islamic radicals. Apparently, Quds has orders to keep trying, while the Iranian government keeps denying.

All this is embarrassing for the Iranians because what it does demonstrate to Iranians is that foreigners are able to get inside Iran and do damage and all their government can do is issue press releases. Iran does put a lot of effort into intelligence operations overseas but most of their successes are best not discussed in public. This would jeopardize those operations and that’s a definite defeat for an intel organization. So Iran invents victories it can’t talk about, if only to improve public attitudes towards the intelligence and other clandestine operatives who toil in the shadows.




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