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Iran Has 16 Intelligence Agencies


By Arash Bahmani (source: Rooz Online)

A few days after the publication of a special booklet by the ministry of intelligence, Fars news agency which is closely associated with Iran’s intelligence services announced for the first time the existence of 16 intelligence-security agencies in the Islamic republic.

Under the title of “How Are Intelligence Agencies Coordinated” Fars’ story read, “During the last two decades, new intelligence-security agencies have been created, which today total 16.”

According to the news report, the central of the country’s intelligence community remains the Ministry of Intelligence while the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Unit, the Military Intelligence Unit, the Police Intelligence Unit and the Intelligence Security Unit of the Revolutionary Guards are the key intelligence services in the country. Fars did not name which specific agencies had been created in the last two decades and did not name the others either.

But the report did provide some description about the “Intelligence Coordination Council” which was created by virtue of article two of the law that created the ministry of intelligence for the purpose of coordinating the activities of the various intelligence services.

According to this law, the intelligence coordinating council would have nine members comprising the minister of intelligence, the attorney general, the Director of the Revolutionary Guards Force Intelligence Security, the Director of the Revolutionary Guards Force Intelligence, the Director of Military Intelligence Security, the Director of Military Intelligence, the Director of Police Intelligence Security, or his fully authorized representative, and the minister of foreign affairs or his fully authorized representative.

Fars published its report a few days after the ministry of intelligence published a 200-page report titled “30 Years of Silent Sacrifice” on the occasion of the thirtieth year since the founding of the ministry of intelligence. The publication of the report was widely welcomed in the state media. For example, Asre Iran website - which is close to mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf - wrote, “This was an unprecedented act and rather than hurling accusations at other, which was the norm between 2009 and 2013, the report discusses the high level issues and does not view the political competitions inside Iran as a danger or a threat.”

According to the Asre Iran author, the contents of the report speak of a more secure agency than the one in the past.

The Intelligence Agency is Under the Supervision of the Supreme Leader

The report of Fars and that of the ministry of intelligence are published at a time when just a few months ago Ali Yunesi, the intelligence minister in Khatami’s administration who is now a special assistant to Hassan Rouhani, had announced that intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi had yet to take full control of his ministry.

Hardline principlists have on a number of occasions called for changing the ministry of intelligence into a simple agency, arguing that the body should be under the direct supervision of the country’s top leader ayatollah Khamenei.

An example of this is when the very first intelligence minister Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri publicly said, “In no regime is the ministry of intelligence run by the cabinet. It is always above the administration because administrations come and go while intelligence machinery should remain above it under the supervision of the highest authority in the country.”

It has been reported that under Mohammad Khatami’s first administration, Ghorbanali Dori Najafabadi who was Khatami’s first intelligence minister and who ultimately resigned because of the exposure of the serial murders committed by agents of his ministry, was Khatami’s 16 choice for the minister of intelligence and the fifteen higher choices had all be rejected by ayatollah Khamenei.

In this regard Reyshahri has said, “The ministry of intelligence and I operated under the direct supervision of the imam (ayatollah Khomeini) and we asked for direction directly from him on fundamental issues and acted according to his directives. Whoever became part of the intelligence apparatus and asked me for advice, I have told them that the supreme leader had to be satisfied with the intelligence apparatus and that we had to be in synch with the leader. This is how it is in all regimes.”

Another instance that indicates the interference of the supreme leader in intelligence activities is the removal of minister Heydar Moslehi from his post by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who in fact forced him to write up his resignation and then immediately accepted it. A few days later a letter from ayatollah Khamenei’s office reinstated the minister. The letter addressed to Moslehi said, “I request that you put more efforts in carrying out the important domestic and foreign missions. With assistance from the government and cooperation of other intelligence agencies, do not allow the slightest weakness in carrying out the legal responsibilities of the agency.”

Ahmadinejad of course objected to this interference and refrained from working for eleven days, which resulted in a change in his relationship with ayatollah Khamenei and a faction within the principlist group that was the backbone of his support.

Alavi and the Ministry of Intelligence

Mahmoud Alavi was Hassan Rouhani’s choice to lead the ministry of intelligence. Some Majlis representatives objected to him during his Majlis confirmation voting. Since his tenure, he has failed to win the support of some Rouhani supporters while some authorities have even openly complained about his performance.

Ali Yunesi, the minister of intelligence during Khatami’s administration has at least on two occasions said that Alavi had yet to fully take control of the ministry of intelligence.

It appears that this is the reason why Alavi is strongly pushing the idea of activating the intelligence council. He has said from the first days of his appointment that he is serious about convening the sessions of the intelligence council.

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