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Iran Claims Arrests Of Israeli-Linked Spies

Revolutionary Guard chief Mohamad Ali Jafari
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's Revolutionary Guards have broken up an Israeli-linked spy network and arrested its members, the guards' commander said on November 24, two days after the Islamic state said it had executed an Iranian man for spying for its arch foe.

A semi-official news agency, Mehr, said those arrested had confessed that they had received training in Israel for carrying out assassinations and bombings.

Tensions between Iran and Israel have been high in recent months amid speculation that the Jewish state might attack Iranian nuclear facilities, which it believes form part of a covert weapons program.

Iran rejects the accusation and says it would retaliate against any military strikes launched by the United States or Israel, believed to be the only Middle Eastern country with nuclear arms.

"Recently the Revolutionary Guards arrested members of a network who were spying for [Israeli intelligence agency] Mossad," Mehr quoted the force's commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying.

Jafari did not say how many people had been arrested in connection with the spy network, which he said had sought to obtain information about the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's nuclear program, and some military intelligence officials.

"The Revolutionary Guards also seized their equipment, and details about this network will soon be revealed to the public," Jafari said on state radio. "The enemies should know that spy networks cannot collect information in Iran and reach their goals."

Mehr quoted him as saying sophisticated communications systems had also been confiscated. "The arrested people confessed that they had been specially trained in Israel for bombings and assassinations," Jafari said, according to Mehr. They had received financial support from Mossad for buying cars and equipment, he said.

Jafari did not say whether the alleged spy ring was linked to executed Iranian businessman Ali Ashtari or the arrest of a group of "terrorists" last week.

The Iranian judiciary said on November 22 that Ashtari had been hanged the previous week after being convicted of spying on the military for Israel. It said he was arrested in 2006 after working with Mossad for three years.

An Israeli government official said in June that Israel had no knowledge of Ashtari's case.

Iran's official news agency IRNA also reported on November 22 that a group of four "terrorists" with "Zionist equipment and methods" had been arrested in western Iran, and that they were planning to carry out assassinations. It did not say when they were detained.

Iran often accuses Israel and other rivals, such as the United States, of trying to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

The Revolutionary Guards are an ideologically motivated arm of Iran's military with an independent command structure.