John Sano, Adjunct Professor, The Institute of World Politics; Former Deputy Director, National Clandestine Service, CIA addressed a webinar on October 22, 2020, over the Iranian regime’s terrorism in Europe.
Also, a group of European and US personalities, lawyers and experts joined the online event hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on October 22. They condemned the Mullahs’ regime’s terrorism campaign in the Europe and called on the EU to pursue a firm policy against the Iran’s regime.
Participants condemned the regime’s support for terrorism around the world and called on the EU to end the appeasement policy under the pretext of engagement with the mullahs. It is time to make it clear to the mullahs’ regime that their support for terrorism in Europe soil and across the world will not be tolerated.
John Sano, Adjunct Professor, The Institute of World Politics; Former Deputy Director, National Clandestine Service, CIA
Good afternoon. And thanks for the opportunity to talk to you today about what by any measure is a serious breach of international law, not to mention a rather heinous act of cowardice and terrorism. I’m speaking about the case that we’ve all been discussing against Asadollah Assadi, a senior Ministry of Intelligence and Security official, who likely was operating on the direct orders of the Supreme Leader.
The case against him is undeniable. As the French government officially stated, without any doubt, the responsibility for this plot falls on the Iranian intelligence ministry, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. As the senior most intelligence officer for Iran in Europe and someone who previously spent a considerable amount of time in Iraq, targeting the MEK, targeting US military forces in the region, he was the person who personally handed the explosives to be used in this attack to Nasimeh Naami and Amir Sadouni.
While Assadi and other MOIS operatives have been indicted, the European Union has put part of the MOIS and two of its senior officials on its sanctions list. Quite frankly, this is not enough. There should be international outrage and a more comprehensive plan to mitigate and eradicate the MOIS, which the US government has officially designated a foreign terrorist organization.
So, in addition to what will inevitably be a guilty verdict, Assadi has had the audacity to threaten authorities with retaliation should or I should say when a guilty verdict is returned. That’s clearly unacceptable and indicative of just how brutal the MOIS can be.
So, let me speak very briefly about the MOIS, they operate worldwide, they use a variety of methods and tactics. They operate undercover as a diplomat, either through official embassy channels or through business organizations. They work very closely with the IRGC and other security agencies. But to label them an intelligence agency, in the purest sense of the word, would be a misnomer. From ancient times, nations relied on intelligence as an essential element of statecraft. And intelligence was a reflection of the culture and the value system of a given society.
But in the modern era, there are changes that have occurred, so that the nature of intelligence moved from survival of the regime to one protecting human rights and freedoms. The MOIS never made that transition, they see their only reason for existence as being the protection of the regime and the eradication of its enemies. So, a legitimate intelligence service should therefore reflect the principles, the aspirations, and the ideals of its people, not oppress them.
So, in terms of how the MOIS operates, basically as I mentioned earlier, a terrorist organization, they are the central organization in Iran that deals with intelligence operations. They are beholding to no one other than the supreme leader. In 1996, by way of background, the Iranian government created an organization called the Supreme Council for Intelligence of theirs, they put this entity under the MOIS. That entity alone has over 25,000 people in their organization. Even the IRGC falls under the mandate to a significant degree. Its external operational wing, the Quds forces are required to report to the MOIS.
So, talking about this trial and how, as you mentioned previously, this information, that’s the largest component in the MOIS, the department of disinformation. They use psychological warfare, they employ thousands of officers, including former members of the MEK and other opposition groups. They infiltrate foreign based operation groups, they basically are attempting, with very little of any success, to manipulate these organizations into either acquiring information on what they’re doing, or, and again, has never been proven successful, try to manipulate that organization into being at a minimum less hostile to the regime or perhaps being more supportive.
So, during my career in intelligence, working for the agency, I’ve encountered a number of MOIS operatives, and while their tactics may be somewhat outdated compared to other Intel organizations, the breadth of their coverage, the capabilities at their disposal, and the unrestricted authorities they have our unmatched, they have been able to intimidate, coerce, kidnap, and even kill opponents of the ruling moves to whom they view as their sole protector.
So, one of the largest public opponents as I said, disinformation. They’re the ones that have spread the false rumors about not just the Iranian regimes’ objectives, but about opposition groups as well. They manipulate the media very successfully, both in terms of providing a more positive image of Iran and planting false stories in the press about opposition groups like the MEK.
So, they blamed the terrorist attacks such as the IRGC force plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States several years ago, and other forces. Even in this most recent incident about Assadi, the attempted assassination, the MOIS tried to shift blame for their for this act on the MEK itself, saying that this was a false flag operation. False flag meaning they are pretending to be someone other than whom they really are.
So, these and other untrue allegations have been made loudly and persistently by Tehran’s functionaries, both witting and unwitting in America, as well as Europe. The MOIS is a sophisticated service and quite subtle when trying to influence the media and policymakers into adopting their lies. These lies are spreading not just in various blogs and social media, but have been picked up by the mainstream media, from CNN to the New York Times.
They are designed to present a different face of Iran, to pick those that stand up for democracy for basic human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as torture and depicting them as subversives, as terrorists. And the chain of command, let me conclude with this. The MOIS literally is above the law. They are accountable only to the Supreme Leader. And while the Supreme Leader would normally go through the aforementioned Supreme National Security Council, he can and I believe in this case was actually the example that we’re using, he often goes directly to the MOIS. So, there’s no supervision, there’s no transparency, whatsoever.
And given the fear that the Iranian regime has about the MEK and about pro-democracy movements in the world, it gives the regime you know, great concern. They are so concerned about survival. And if you look at the uprisings that have occurred in Iran over the past few years, looking to not overthrow necessarily, but to change the regimes to a more democratic one, they are extremely frightened, and they see the MEK as the largest entity that represents the will of the Iranian people themselves for free and democratic Iran. So, they are desperate, they continue to see the MEK as a major threat to their survival.
So, it’s imperative that Asadi, his cohorts, and indeed the MOIS, and the Mullahs in Tehran be held strictly accountable for this incident for the continuous atrocities that Tehran continues to perpetrate against their enemies and to the people of Iran. Thank you.