Austrian Capital “Filled with Iranian Spies”
By Benjamin Weinthal, Research Fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Reviewed by John Handley, Vice President, American Diplomacy
The title of this short article made available by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies contains the essence of the piece. That there are Iranian spies, that is agents of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security or MOIS), operating within and from Vienna is not all that surprising. The author’s main concern seems to be that Austria in particular and the Western European countries in general are doing little if anything to prevent Iran from sending its agents to Vienna.
One should note that some of these agents have been arrested and convicted while many have not. What the author does not seem to understand is that the Austrian and other Western intelligence agencies do a reasonably good job of keeping tabs on these Iranian agents. One reason for not arresting them is to try to “vet” the agent as a possible asset. The U.S. and other intelligence services are not able to travel to Iran to recruit; however, having Iranians come to Western countries gives these agencies varying degrees of access in an effort to ascertain if any one of them is susceptible to some form of inducement, such as getting a family out of Iran, providing a stable and secure life in the West, money, or even an appeal to the lower base desires. In some cases an X-rated movie or a good bottle of Scotch is all that is necessary to change someone’s allegiance.
When dealing with people from a society such as Iran with largely conservative morays, you may be surprised at the effect that living in the West does to some of the less well indoctrinated. It is entirely possible that the arrested agents represent those who, after time, failed to submit to any inducements. Those still walking the streets of Vienna are probably still being “vetted”.
Personally, I know that the agents I recruited were, for the most part, not from my assigned Eastern European post. They came from the all seven of the former-Warsaw Part countries, as well as from several Middle Eastern countries, and even from Cuba. For an intelligence agency seeking “human” information on North Korea the best place to recruit is Japan, surely the most frequently visited state by personnel from the DPRK. Remember, no one said that intelligence work was pretty or for the faint of heart.