Iran has executed a man accused of spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, state media reported Saturday, further escalating tensions between the regional arch-rivals at a time when Tehran is seen boosting cooperation with Russia.
Accused Spy Hanged
The official IRNA news agency said the alleged spy was hanged Friday morning after being sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court, which handles security-related cases behind closed doors. The report identified him only by his first name, Mohammad.
The man was convicted of passing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear and military sites to Mossad as well as “obscene relations” with the agency, a term often used to refer to sexual contacts. IRNA said the court also convicted Mohammad of cooperating with a “second Israeli spy and providing [Mossad] with photos and work phones secretly installed” in strategic sites across Iran.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the Iranian claim or on whether Mohammad was an Israeli asset.
There was also no comment on the case from Iran’s predominantly exiled opposition groups. The several Kurdish, Arab and Baluch insurgent groups operating in Iran rarely communicate with Western or Israeli media.
Long History of Espionage and Sabotage
Israel and Iran have long accused each other of spying. Israel views Iran as its greatest threat and has repeatedly threatened to take military action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking such weapons and has vowed a harsh response to any Israeli aggression.
In January 2020, Israel killed prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in a military-style ambush on the outskirts of Tehran. Iran has blamed Israel’s Mossad spy agency for the killing.
Both countries have also previously executed prisoners convicted of spying for the other nation.
|Iranians Executed for Spying for Israel/West
|3 alleged Mossad spies
|Man accused of helping CIA kill top general
|Majid Jamali Fashi, accused of Mossad links
In 2012, Iran executed Majid Jamali Fashi, a man convicted of working for Mossad and assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist by blowing up a magnetized bomb under his car.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia in 1997 announced it had detained two men it said were Israeli spies, adding to tensions that rose this month after Israel said Hezbollah carried out an operation along their border.
In 2020, Iran executed Ruhollah Zam after he returned from living in exile in France. Zam had run a website that helped inspire nationwide economic protests in Iran months earlier which saw people chanting calls for the government’s overthrow.
Cooperation with Russia
The hanging comes as Iran has been rocked by over three months of protests following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the country’s morality police.
The protests have seen at least 530 people killed since they started, as well as over 19,700 people detained, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group following the demonstrations.
Tehran also has been shaken by an attack claimed by the Islamic State group on one of the country’s most important Shiite shrines that killed over a dozen people.
The events come as Iran and Russia have drawn closer through their mutual support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.
Iran refuses to criticize Russia’s war, while Moscow has boosted its crucial battlefield support for Tehran in the form of drones and air defense systems.
The execution is likely to ratchet up tensions between Iran and Israel. Additional Mossad sabotage and covert operations inside Iran, aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, are now more probable.
Israel may also strike Iranian targets directly across the border in Syria where Iran has a growing military presence supporting Assad’s government. Israeli airstrikes frequently target Iranian weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah forces in Syria and Lebanon.
The spiraling tensions could spark a wider conflict, drawing in Iran’s proxies across the region. Both countries however are likely to avoid all-out war for now, confining hostile acts to the shadows.
So far there has been little international reaction. Western diplomats are distracted by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Iran’s top regional rival Saudi Arabia has also cooled tensions with Tehran recently, holding direct talks in a bid to dial back hostilities that have fueled conflicts across the Middle East.
With geo-political alignments shifting across the region, an unspoken understanding may emerge between Iran and Israel to avoid open conflict and direct provocations that could ignite an uncontrollable regional conflagration.
The hanging of an alleged Mossad spy represents just the latest escalation between Iran and Israel. With Iran providing extensive support to Russia and cracks appearing in the Islamic Republic after months of violent internal unrest, tensions between the long-time foes are unlikely to dissipate soon. The execution may presage a new surge in covert attacks and sabotage efforts between the regional enemies in the coming months.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.