Rabat - Leaked South African intelligence documents obtained by Al Jazeera network have revealed that Iranian intelligence services spied on Morocco and other African countries where there are "substantial Shi'a Islam communities". This comes just weeks after the renormalization of relations between Rabat and Tehran.
Rabat – Leaked South African intelligence documents obtained by Al Jazeera network have revealed that Iranian intelligence services spied on Morocco and other African countries where there are “substantial Shi’a Islam communities”. This comes just weeks after the renormalization of relations between Rabat and Tehran.
The 128-page “Operational Target Analysis,” a document produced by South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which monitored Iranian agents under alleged US pressure, said that Iran has made efforts to export the Iranian revolution principles and stir up Shia Muslim groups in several African countries, including Morocco, through the use of a variety of organizations that are concerned with realizing the Iranian objectives in the continent.
According to the document, dated January 2010, apart from its traditional official functions, Iran uses its embassies, consulates, Iranian businesses (such as the carpet industry), mosques and Islamic cultural centers outside Iran for the task of spreading the Islamic revolution abroad.
The document also reveals that the NIA devoted considerable resources to monitoring Iranian agents even though the agency does not see Iran as a significant threat to South Africa. According to an intelligence source quoted by the British newspaper The Guardian, South Africa’s spy agency has responded to demands from the United States and its allies to focus on Iran.
The South African document provided details about every suspected Iranian agent in South Africa. The suspected agents, estimated by the US to number 30,000 worldwide, are listed as journalists and members of the business community, with many alleged to use Persian carpet shops as fronts.
“Private…sectors such as the Persian carpet trade are used to accommodate intelligence officers in its structures,” the report says.
One of the documents said that a meeting in the Gulf between senior NIA officials and their UAE counterparts in November 2014 revealed that “Africa is rather low on Iran’s list of priorities.”
It added: “Iranian influence in Africa is limited to areas where there are substantial Shia communities: Tanzania, Zanzibar, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger and Guinea.”
The South African document revealed that the basis of Iran’s foreign policy stems from what Iran claims to be the right of Iranian clerics to rule over the Islamic community. It is described in article 152 of the Iranian constitution as the Preservation of independence, its territorial integrity and the defence of the rights of all Muslims. This implies enforcing absolute authority over the populace, and extending this authority to all Muslims, the document added.
Targeting “Shia communities” in Morocco and elsewhere is based, according to the Iranian interpretation, on the idea that Muslims throughout the world constitute a single community, also called the Ummah, which must be ruled by a single government. Thus the religious leaders of Iran assert that by virtue of the 1979 revolution they have acquired the status of “guardians” of all Muslims throughout the world, the report said.
Operational Target Analysis highlights that Iran’s primary focus is to spread Iranian influence through local Islamic communities, collecting information on science and technology, infiltrating and influencing local Muslim communities in foreign states, and procuring military hardware.
The report also acknowledges that Iranian spies are among the most disciplined and ideologically committed in the world, making their organization difficult to infiltrate and their agents hard to turn.
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