Iran’s intelligence service includes 30,000 people who are engaged in covert and clandestine activities that range from spying to stealing technology to terrorist bombings and assassination, according to a Pentagon report.
The report concluded that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, known as MOIS, is "one of the largest and most dynamic intelligence agencies in the Middle East."
The ministry actively supports Iran’s radical Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that has been involved in terrorist bombings from Argentina to Lebanon, according to the report produced by the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program and published last month by the Library of Congress Federal Research Division.
The Washington Free Beacon obtained a copy of the 64-page unclassified report.
"MOIS provides financial, material, technological, or other support services to Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), all designated terrorist organizations under U.S. Executive Order 13224," the report said.
The spy service operates in all areas where Iran has interests, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Central Asia, Africa, Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, France, Georgia, Germany, Turkey, Britain, and the Americas, including the United States.
Iranian activities in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela have raised alarm among U.S. government officials.
The effort appears part of "Iran’s strategy of establishing a presence in the backyard of the United States for purposes of expanding Shi’a and revolutionary ideology, establishing networks for intelligence and covert operations, and waging asymmetrical warfare against the United States," the report said.
"In Latin America, Iran’s intelligence agencies—MOIS but mostly the Quds Force—use Hezbollah to achieve their goals."
Israel also is a major target of the MOIS and support for Hezbollah in Lebanon is a major Tehran intelligence objective.
The ministry is under the direct control of Iran’s theocratic dictator, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and all its ministers must become Islamic clerics as a precondition for the post. However, the agency recruits foreigners, including British nationals and Israeli Jews.
"To advance its goals, MOIS recruits individuals regardless of their beliefs, including Arabs or Jews to spy in Israel," the report said.
One MOIS deputy minister, Saeed Emami, was appointed to a key post despite being Jewish by birth.
According to the report, Iranian intelligence is expanding operations in the Middle East and Mediterranean by setting up electronic eavesdropping stations.
"Two Iranian-Syrian [signals intelligence] stations funded by the IRGC reportedly have been active since 2006, one in the al-Jazirah region in northern Syria and the other on the Golan Heights," the report said, noting that additional stations were planned for northern Syria.
"The technology at the two established SIGNIT stations indicates that Iran’s capabilities are still limited, with little scope for high-level strategic intelligence gathering," the report said, noting they "appear to concentrate on supplying information to Lebanese Hezbollah," Iran’s main proxy for terrorism and intelligence-gathering in the region.
Iran also has formed a "cyber command" to conduct both offensive and defensive cyber warfare operations following the June 2010 Stuxnet virus that crippled Iran’s uranium-enrichment infrastructure.
"The success of this virus is an indication of the weakness of Iran’s cyber development," the report said.
The spy agency was linked to a series of assassinations in the 1990s called the "Chain Murders" that exposed it to western criticism.
According to the report, Russia was active in training Iranian intelligence operations beginning in the 1990s.
The Russian SVR spy service, the successor to the Soviet KGB, trained hundreds of MOIS operatives despite the two agencies’ different doctrines.
The cooperation was based on both nations’ goal of limiting U.S. political influence in Central Asia and efforts to stifle ethnic unrest.
"The SVR trained not only hundreds of Iranian agents but also numerous Russian agents inside Iran to equip Iranian intelligence with signals equipment in their headquarters compound," the report said.
Iran’s intelligence is also cooperating with al Qaeda despite the Sunni-Shiite differences in religious ideology.
"Cooperation between Iran and al Qaeda is based on their shared opposition to U.S. hegemony in the region—Iraq and Afghanistan, chiefly—and dates to the 1990s," the report said.
Iran helped a number of al Qaeda terrorists travel safely from Afghanistan to Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"The fact that al Qaeda operates in many countries helps Iran achieve its goal of diverting U.S. attention away from Iran’s immediate neighborhood," the report said. "In return, al Qaeda uses Iran as a place where its facilitators connect al Qaeda’s senior leadership with regional affiliates."
"Iranians engage in two types of terrorist attacks," the report said. "One type includes sabotage, espionage, and bombing of target locations, while the other involves the assassination of dissidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both are perpetrated inside and outside of Iran."
Between December 1979 and May 1996 a total of 17 Iranians were assassinated by the MOIS, including the July 1980 murder in Bethesda, Md., of Ali Tabatabaei, the Iranian Embassy press attaché in the United States under the Shah of Iran.
Known MOIS-linked assassinations of dissidents inside Iran included the murders of 22 people between November 1988 and December 1998.
The report said the IRGC’s Quds Force is the main covert action arm of the Tehran regime, but that both the MOIS and IRGC cooperate closely.
MOIS agents also use clandestine agents to infiltrate Iranian communities around the world, usually through charitable groups that claim to support Iranian refugees.
"MOIS also has agents who abduct individuals abroad, return them to Iran, and then imprison or kill them," the report said.
For human spying, the Iranians are "extremely active," the report said, noting a highly organized and focused program against nearby states.
The Iranians have also deployed many agents to influence the government in Baghdad.
Other Iranian intelligence networks have been discovered in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Turkey.
MOIS defector Gen. Ali Reza Asgari helped identify Iranian links to Hezbollah and also provided Israel with intelligence on Syria’s covert nuclear reactor, which was bombed in 2007 by Israel warplanes, the report said.
"The United States managed to successfully damage Iran’s uranium-enrichment program by intentionally providing defective tools, machines, and blueprints in 2000 and 2003," the report said.
Iran created a special counterintelligence unit in response called Oghab 2, or Eagle 2, devoted to protecting the nuclear program from attack and sabotage.
However, the Stuxnet computer virus and other cyber attacks showed the counterspy unit to be marginally effective, the report said.