In a statement made by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence on May 26, 2007, it was expressed that “they had uncovered five networks of spies active in the west, southwest and central parts of Iran consisting of the occupants in Iraq who have infiltrated into Iran. These spying networks consisted of members of the occupying forces in Iraq. The members of these spying networks were caught and their activities were terminated”. While there was no direct mention of any state in this statement made by the Ministry on state-owned television, the Swiss Ambassador was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Given the fact that diplomatic relations between the USA and Iran – which could not be conducted in a direct channel – are conducted via Switzerland, it is assessed that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence was mentioning the USA. Meanwhile, another statement was made by Ahmad Subhani – chief of the USA desk of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – claiming that ‘the uncovered spying networks were controlled by the USA’. However, the Ministry of Intelligence has not made a clear statement whether these spying networks have any connection with the arrest of the Americans of Iranian origin including academician Esfandiari who are accused of ‘being involved in the activities aiming at overthrowing the Iranian Government’. It is noted that within the Iranian public opinion it is broadly believed that the aforementioned operations are carried out as a result of the intelligence obtained from the continuing interrogation of Hale Esfandiari. Donna Prino, White House Deputy Chief in charge of Press Relations, reacted to the indirect statements by Iran immediately the next day. It was stated that “the made statements were neither approved nor denied. It was expected from Iran to assume a positive role in Iraq. They requested from Iran to quit the policy of blaming other countries due to problems for which Iran herself was responsible”. The United Kingdom preferred to deny the accusations. British Foreign Affairs Spokesman stated that “it was the first time that they heard about these claims by Iran and that they wanted to acquire more information about the issue”. Meanwhile, it has been informed that people who are at the same time US citizens are recently being detained, arrested or not permitted to leave the country and another incident like this has happened again. There is no information on the whereabouts of Iranian and US citizen Ali Shakeri, who is a businessman living in California/USA, since March when he visited the country. Shakari, who is noted to be also appointed in the advisory board of an institute of the University of California that conducts “work on how peace can be fostered in disintegrated societies”, is reported to have left for Iran a while ago and had to have returned a few weeks before. An official of this institute, who wanted to remain anonymous, said with respect to this issue that “they had not heard from Shakeri since March 8”. The Human Rights Watch has noted that a relative of Shakeri, whose name was not mentioned, has said that Shakeri, who had a double citizenship, “was detained by the Iranian authorities”. Previously there have been 3 other individuals with double citizenship who have been arrested or detained in Iran or who have not been allowed to leave the country. These are Hale Esfandiyari who is an academician in the USA; Parnaz Azima, a correspondent of a US-finaced radio, and Kiyan Tajbahshi, who works for the Open Society Institute of US speculator George Soros and who is at the same time an urban planning advisor for the World Bank. The US Government has stated that there is a fourth person who is not allowed to leave Iran, but did not name this person. It is not clear yet whether Shakeri is this fourth person. US officials had noted that they believed that former FBI official Robert Levinson, reported to be lost during his visit to Iran, was also detained by Iranian officials, but Teheran had denied this. Diplomats are concerned that the arrest of the 5 Iranians in Iraq by the USA in past January followed by the detainments in Iran might escalate even more the tension between the two countries the diplomatic relations of which are cut off since 1980. Yet, it is known that Iran is frequently accusing the USA and the United Kingdom for spying activities aiming at overthrowing the existing regime. As it is recalled, the Iranian Administration had kept the United Kingdom responsible for the explosions that happened in the past years in Ahvaz which is the southwestern part of Iran where the Arabs are primarily living.
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