Jefferson Morley | August 19, 2019
Iran: Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS)
MOIS in the News
- Two Plead Guilty to Spying on MEK for Iran (Nov. 6, 2019)
- Trump’s Pressure on Iran May Spark Mideast Conflict (Sept. 10, 2019)
- “How the IRGC Views Israeli Attacks,” (August 27, 2019)
- “Iran isn’t Another Iraq. It’s a Different Kind of War.” (August 18, 2019)
- “As CIA Steps Up Operations, Iran Again Claims to Have Arrested 17 U.S. Spies” (July 22, 2019)
The Ministry of Intelligence and Security is one of two organizations responsible for conducting covert activities outside of Iran. The other is the Qods Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), which conduct special intelligence operations outside of Iran. The IRGC has also worked with MOIS on offensive cyber-intelligence measures. Mahmoud Alavi has been the Minister of Intelligence and Agency Executive of MOIS since 2013.
In April 2019, the Trump administration designated the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” and imposed sanctions on seven individuals and entitities, including the Qods Force.
The Qods Force is the cutting edge of Iran’s international power projection. In the words of a Congressional Research Service report from 2017.
Iran’s operations in support of its allies—which generally include arms shipments, provision of advisers, training, and funding—are carried out by the Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC (IRGC-QF). The IRGC-QF is headed by IRGC Major General Qasem Soleimani, who apparently reports directly to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamene’i. IRGC leaders have on numerous occasions publicly acknowledged these activities; on August 20, 2016, an IRGC-QF commander in Syria stated to an Iranian newspaper that Iran had formed a “Liberation Army” consisting of local, mostly Shiite, fighters that support Iran’s interests in various Arab countries. Much of the weaponry Iran supplies to its allies include specialized antitank systems, artillery rockets, mortars, and short-range missiles.
The Ministry of Intelligence and Security was first established as SAVAK in 1957 with the help of the United States and Israel. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, continued to use SAVAK personnel for counterintelligence purposes but divided other intelligence functions among among a variety of groups including the IRGC, the Kumitehs (small neighborhood security committees), the Prime Minister’s Intelligence Office, the army, and the police.
In 2012 the Obama administration sanctioned MOIS for “for its support to terrorist groups as well as its central role in perpetrating human rights abuses.”
In August 2017, the Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi announced the ministry has disbanded more than 100 terrorist groups across Iran. The agency has had a reputation of human rights violations. “Security and intelligence forces summoned, harassed, and arrested dozens of journalists, prominent trade unionists, and social media activists,” Human Rights Watch reported in 2018.
Iran ramped up their cyber intelligence capabilities after the StuxNet virus, reportedly planted by U.S. and Israeli agents, targeted their uranium-enrichment infrastructure. Their cyberwar efforts have been aimed mainly at the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
- MOIS Web site (in Farsi)
- Iran’s Foreign Defense and Foreign Policy (Congressional Research Service)
- Iran 2018 (Human Rights Watch)
- Comments/Corrections/Suggestions About Iran