The Israeli spy agency Mossad is using Iranian exiles living in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan to target Iranian nuclear experts and sabotage the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, says an Iraqi security official quoted by the French daily Le Figaro.
“The Mossad agents have increased their infiltration in the Kurdish regions of Iraq,” the unnamed security official was quoted as saying.
He said Iranian refugees in the Kurdish regions opposed to the current regime in Tehran are being recruited by the Israeli agents to target Iranian experts in nuclear technology.
Iran has regularly accused the United States and Israel of targeting its nuclear scientists in a bid to disrupt its nuclear program.
On Monday, Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced an Iranian-American man to death on charges of espionage for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a charge that the U.S. has denied as baseless.
Hekmati, a 28-year-old of Iranian descent born in the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona, was arrested in December and Iran’s Intelligence Ministry accused him of receiving training at U.S. bases in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq.
Iran’s judiciary said Hekmati admitted to having links with the CIA but denied any intention of harming Iran, which has had no relations with the United States since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Reuters. Mutual antagonism has reigned since.
Iran, which often accuses its foes of trying to destabilize its Islamic system, said in May it had arrested 30 people on suspicion of spying for the United States and later 15 people were indicted for spying for Washington and Israel.
Despite mounting international pressure and sharpened rhetoric, Iran seems determined to stick to its nuclear course ahead of the parliamentary election, to be followed by a presidential ballot in 2013.
The United States is concerned that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing a weapon, but Tehran insists it is for peaceful energy production.
The United States has previously said that it could live with a nuclear-capable Iran but that it will not allow the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear weapon.
Obama and Congress agreed in August to cut some $487 billion in defense spending over the next decade as part of efforts to bring of the nation’s $14 trillion debt under control.
But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned U.S. rivals not to miscalculate the cuts in the U.S. defense budget.
He particularly warned Iran not to carry out its threat to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz .
“We made very clear that the United States will not tolerate the blocking of the Straits of Hormuz,” Panetta told CBS television. “That’s another red line for us and that we will respond to them.”