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ARREST OF AMERICAN AND ISRAELI SPIES NOT SERIOUS: EXPERTS
By Safa Haeri
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2004
PARIS, 23 Dec. (IPS) Experts and intelligence community did not take seriously the so-called revelations made on Wednesday 22 December by the Iranian Information (Intelligence) Minister concerning the arrest of 10 spies on charges passing nuclear information to American and Israelis.
Talking to reporters, Mr. Younesi, a junior cleric, said the culprits had been detained during the present Iranian year of 1383 that ends on 21 March 2005, adding that three of the suspects were staff of Irans Atomic Energy Organization.
The spies, believed to be agents of Mossad and CIA, were arrested in Tehran and the southern province of Hormozgan, he said, adding that the detainees were handed over to the Islamic Revolution Court", one that deals mostly with the regimes security, espionage and counter-espionage matters, according to the official news agency IRNA.
They behaved like [they were] at the greengrocer", he said, making sure that none of the data from the Iranian nuclear program had leaked to foreigners.
But while some news agencies like ISNA and Mehr quoted the spokesman as having said eight Zionists had been detained, implying that the detainees are Israelis or possible Iranian Jews, others, like the official news agency IRNA used the word people.
Although the Minister did not reveal the identities of the arrested people or said when they have been detained, however, he suggested that the suspects were not professionals in espionage, as some of them turned to a number of different Iranian agencies asking to purchase enriched uranium and an atomic bomb".
"They behaved like [they were] at the greengrocer", he said, making sure that none of the data from the Iranian nuclear program had leaked to foreigners.
Earlier this month, the Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested a spy who had been pretending to work on nuclear centrifuges in order to cast doubt on Tehran's recent agreements with the European Union to suspend such work.
Insisting that Irans intelligence network was ranking among worlds best agencies, if not the best and in any way, superior to both the American CIA and Israels Mossad, Mr Younessi hen went on describing to bored reporters that how his agents could decipher all secret codes used by would be spies, reading their e-mails, listening to their cell phones or reproducing letters wrote with invisible ink.
But Mr. Younessi failed to explain that if his ministry and his agents are so competent, how come then that they were not able to detect a journalist passing classified information to an un-named military attaché from an unidentified foreign embassy? one Iranian journalist who was present at the press conference told Iran Press Service.
He was referring to the case of Mr. Javad Qolam Tamimi, a journalist and author of a weblog who, after being released from prison two weeks ago, confessed that he had been brainwashed by counter-revolutionaries and has passed information to a military attaché.
Ever since the Information Ministry lost the confidence and trust the ruling conservatives in November 1998 and the creation of a parallel intelligence network under the direct control of Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, Mr. Younessi drops such bombshells time to time in order to justify the existence of his ministry, a former intelligence officer explained, regretting that the Iranian security and intelligence services are probably the most inoperative.
The arrest of the so-called spies surfaced four days ago after the Foreign Affairs Ministrys spokesman confirmed that eight people had been detained on charges of espionage for the United States and Israel.
However, an Israeli online service dealing with intelligence and military affairs speculated that the vague and unverifiable charge -- a typical Iranian exercise to cover up a fiasco could be a response to the arrest, a month ago, of Iranian and Iran-sponsored surveillance teams.
According to DebkaFile, Iranian agents and proxies have been discovered hanging about outside Israels diplomatic missions in the United States, South America, West Europe and the Middle East.
Team members rounded up by the FBI and Egyptian intelligence admitted that they were collecting information for Iranian intelligence.
Team members rounded up by the American FBI and Egyptian intelligence in the last ten days admitted under interrogation that they were collecting information for Iranian intelligence, the DEBKA-Net-Weekly said in an exclusive story.
Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak had informed Israels Trade and Industry minister Ehud Olmert on 14 December about Egyptian security services arrest of a group of Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists carrying out surveillance of the Israeli embassy in Cairo and monitoring the movements of Israeli diplomats and their families in the city on behalf of the Islamic Republic.
DEBKA-Net-Weeklys counter-terrorism sources report that foreign intelligence services have been telling Israel since late November that Iranian spy teams have been spotted outside Israeli missions in various parts of the world, including one nabbed by the FBI watching Israeli consulates in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston.
It was made up of Iranian Americans, Arab and Pakistani students - some of them US citizens, and all activists belonging to Muslim fundamentalist groups, the service said, adding they were perfectly aware that the data sent to Iranian intelligence was intended for use in hostage taking and bombing attacks against Israeli missions.
Lost Generation of Iran Seeks Escape
Many young people turn to drugs or suicide. Others find respite in music or the mountains.
By Megan K. Stack, Times Staff Writer
TEHRAN Their cheeks were bitten by the threat of snow, but the sisters didn't have anywhere else to go. They'd coated their faces with makeup and painted their eyelashes until they looked too heavy to blink, gaudy faces to offset drab denims and black coats. This afternoon, their spirits hung as low as the brooding clouds over the mountains.
"This country is very dirty," said Mansureh, a pale 23-year-old who answers telephones at a law firm because she wasn't accepted to any of Iran's universities. "Nobody likes the regime, especially the youth. There are so many restrictions, we can't do anything."
It was Friday afternoon, time for prayers in the Islamic Republic, but the sisters and hundreds of other young Iranians trekked into the mountains on the outskirts of Tehran instead. Droves of twentysomethings flooded the rocky paths as if they were going somewhere in particular a concert or a rally. But there was nothing at the top; they were simply climbing their way out of the smoggy urban mazes.
The mountains were alive with hormones and directionless potential. Forget black robes and beards; Iran's almost-adults dressed as if they'd just come from a rave, with faded running shoes and aviator glasses shoved high into their hair. They slouched along, glassy-eyed and smoking cigarettes. Many of them looked stoned. Boys and girls held hands. The winter light slanted through the dying trees. The mood was nihilistic.
"I think the government wants the youth to be on drugs so they keep quiet," said Mansureh's sister, a 17-year-old high school student who also gave only her first name, Mona. "They say it's a problem, but they're the ones importing it."
As their government squares off against the West and vague rumors of outside intervention run in the streets, the youth of Tehran move through the months as if dreaming, passing moodily from pop culture to Persian traditions, groping for their place in the world. Conversations with dozens of teens and twentysomethings in Tehran in recent weeks painted an overwhelming picture of a generation lost, disaffected and stained by longing.
"I'd like to start a new life," said Mansureh, her words hanging in tea steam, "somewhere else."
Like many young Iranians, the two sisters chafe at a strict Islamic government but drop into lethargy when it comes to politics.
The previous night, they'd been kicked out of a shopping center by a government morality squad. Run-ins with police are common; the two say they use their pocket money to bribe their way out of trouble. Their friends have turned to drugs or even suicide.
A quarter of a century ago, Iran's fiery youth drove a revolution in the name of Islam and anti-imperialism. But those students grew up, and their zeal faded as they softened into graying bureaucrats. The babies they birthed en masse at the feverish urging of the mullahs have inherited a legacy of double-digit unemployment, widespread drug addiction and gnawing religious disillusionment.
"There aren't any jobs for us," complained Rahim Keab, a 21-year-old soldier in a dirty khaki coat who made his way across a city park under a steely winter sky. He and four friends drifted to Tehran months ago from a farming village in the southwest. Now they are languishing. Keab doesn't know what he will do when his military service is over.
"Young people want to get married, but first they need work," Keab said. "So instead they start to smoke [opium], and they get addicted. The government hasn't done enough for us."
This apathetic, youthful mass is a powerful, albeit untapped, force: Three-quarters of the population is younger than 35. They are enough to shape an election; in a truly representative system, they would decide their government.
But few young people are expected to go to the polls in next spring's presidential election. There's the stupor of hopelessness, and the boycott threat by some reformists. They say they will shun the polls if the conservatives once again ban reformist candidates from running, as they did in parliamentary elections this year.
"When I was a youth, we were revolutionaries, and we were ready to pay the price," said Hamid Reza Jalaipour, a 46-year-old sociologist and onetime student activist who now runs reformist newspapers. "These days the youth are not ready to pay. They prefer to depoliticize, and the conservatives are very happy about that. They are looking for passive masses."
Even the Islamic Republic's legendary student movements have fallen silent. It was the students who swept President Mohammad Khatami into office in 1997, heady with his promises of reform and progress. But Khatami proved weak, and the reforms never came.
So the students lost patience. But when they smashed through the streets in the massive demonstrations of 1999, they were arrested and tortured. Bit by bit, the fire faded from the campuses.
"Our language used to be more courageous," said Majid Haji Babaei, a 31-year-old doctoral student and a leader at the Student Unity Office. "But we were beaten up and even thrown out of windows, we were suppressed, and many went to jail. Naturally, some students felt disappointed, and the risk of political involvement also got higher."
Many Iranian youths yearn for a better life elsewhere but are hard-pressed to articulate where, or how. They resent their own government but complain that they have been unfairly stigmatized by the West. They speak like people drained of politics and religion.
"Everybody believes in God, but now there is a big gap between us and God," said Majid Ghanbari, a 28-year-old film buff, music enthusiast and malcontented entrepreneur with floppy hair and rumpled jeans. "The government tried to force people closer, but instead they sent us further away."
His brother nodded. "Before the revolution, we had real believers, but not now," said Hamid Ghanbari, who at 25 is exactly as old as the revolution. "After the Islamic Revolution, we don't have religion anymore."
Majid Ghanbari owns Video Home, a gaudy and improbable outlaw's den tucked into a corner of a shopping mall in the sandy urban jungles of western Tehran. Its walls are festooned with the bright covers of bootleg movies and albums. He's pushing pop hits from America alongside Iranian films. He hunches over his computer all day long, burning CD after CD.
"Anything you want, I have it," he said.
How about DJ Maryam, the mysterious singer who runs her voice through a computer so it sounds like a robot croaking, the one who is rumored to have been jailed because in Iran it is illegal for women to sing? Her identity is secret, but her albums are everywhere.
Of course the album is available, Ghanbari scoffed "Aren't you hearing it in every taxi?" A few clicks of the mouse, the cursor dances on his flat-screen monitor and the voice spills out into the mall.
As is the case with most of his Iranian peers, Ghanbari's thoughts have been driven away from politics. He has watched with disgust in recent years as fundamentalists resurged and flexed a new, bolder power.
Just the other day, a busload of morality police raided the mall and arrested any women who weren't wearing "good hijab" in other words, women who were showing too much hair. People in Tehran haven't seen that brand of open bullying from the fundamentalists in eight years, Ghanbari fretted. "Those girls were our customers," he said.
In these nervous times, Ghanbari finds solace in pop music and bootleg movies. "Almost everybody supports the left, but they don't have any power," he said. "When the left doesn't do anything, people just forget about it. They put their heads down."
Two schoolgirls slipped into his shop, swathed in hip-hop gear. They were looking for the latest bootleg Iranian music from Los Angeles, and they weren't disappointed. Ghanbari reached beneath his mouse pad, as if he had been waiting for them, and handed over a CD.
As the girls slumped back into the crowds, Ghanbari sighed. How long will it be, he wondered, before the police return to shutter his shop for selling illegal CDs? It happens every few months.
"And then I get nervous and feel really bad. Every time I think, 'I should do something, I should leave this country. What kind of life is this?' " he said, shaking his head. "But then they open the shop again, and I have my job, I have my life. And I am Iranian, I love Iran. I forget about it until the next time."