Since 2009, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has completely eclipsed Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, a new report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center says.
In recent years, the IRGC’s seizure of power not only in a range of new political and economic areas, but also in areas of hard nosed intelligence traditionally reserved to the MOIS, has accelerated dramatically, writes the report’s author, expert Raz Zimmt.
This continues to be true despite the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in January, which was considered a blow to Iran’s external intelligence and influence operations.
According to Zimmt, even if Soleimani’s death has impacted aspects of IRGC external operations, those operations are so broad and diverse that the trend of it overtaking the MOIS appears unlikely to change absent a broader reorientation of power in the country.
Part of what makes the report unique is that unlike most prior reports which focus on one piece of the IRGC, such as the Quds Force, the Meir Amit center report comprehensively breaks down and details each and every distinct unit of the IRGC.
In some ways, the IRGC rising at the MOIS’ expense is not the worst news for Israel and the West.
While neither the IRGC nor the MOIS can be lumped into one paradigm, the report indicates that, generally speaking, the MOIS is viewed as more professional and talented in the art of intelligence than their counterparts in the IRGC.
Part of the reason for this lies in the history of the IRGC arising from the arena of politics, with the report explaining that it only entered intelligence belatedly to ensure its influence in all areas of Iranian life.
In contrast, the MOIS has a long history as a serious and professional service familiar with tactics for recruiting foreign agents and for using sophisticated counterintelligence techniques to catch Iranians who are spying on the Islamic Republic.
For example, it was the MOIS that announced in August it had dismantled five teams of spies working for foreign intelligence services.
“With the help of God almighty and round-the-clock efforts of the intelligence forces, a number of spies linked to foreign intelligence services of arrogant powers were identified and arrested as the strikes on foreign intelligence services is continuing,” the ministry’s counter-intelligence deputy announced.
He claimed that the foreign intelligence officers were planning to conduct espionage activities on Iran’s nuclear, political, economic, military and infrastructural projects by using various complicated spying methods.
Whether this particular announcement was correct, Iran’s MOIS has had successful busts of spies in the past, including dismantling much of the CIA’s network between 2010-2013 and other instances.
In November 2019, The Intercept published a series of reports about IRGC and MOIS activities in Iraq and elsewhere based on rare leaked MOIS internal cables and reports.
While not covering the IRGC as comprehensively as the new Meir Amir report, the Intercept’s reports confirmed some of the distinctive focuses which still remain between Iran’s lead competing intelligence organizations.
In the reports, the MOIS “appear patient, professional, and pragmatic” and are assigned “keep Iraq from falling apart; from breeding Sunni militants on the Iranian border; from descending into sectarian warfare that might make Shi’ite Muslims the targets of violence; and from spinning off an independent Kurdistan.”
The IRGC is portrayed as also working “to eradicate the Islamic State [ISIS], but with a greater focus on maintaining Iraq as a client state of Iran and making sure that political factions loyal to Tehran remain in power.”
Traditionally, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has purposely pitted the IRGC and the MOIS against each other, along with various other agencies.
This has been a tactic to ensure that none of his lieutenants become too powerful by themselves and emerge as a potential challenger for national leadership, says the report.
One reason that the IRGC has likely increased its penetration into intelligence activities both within Iran and externally, notes the Meir Amit report, has been that Khamenei has wanted to weaken Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Generally speaking, the MOIS leader is selected by the president and is more closely associated with him and with the country’s foreign ministry.
So by weakening the MOIS, the report states that Khamenei has also weakened Rouhani and his moderate-conservative camp, who have some positive associations with the West, in favor of the IRGC who view the West with unqualified suspicion.
Source » jpost