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Iranian Agents in US Plead Guilty; Saudi Agents Arrested

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(Illustrative photo: Flickr/Oussama Aberkane/CC2.0)
(Illustrative photo: Flickr/Oussama Aberkane/CC2.0)

Two Iranians pleaded guilty to acting as illegal agents of the Iranian government in the U.S.

Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, an Iranian with dual U.S. citizenship, and Majid Ghorbani, 60, were caught running surveillance on Jewish facilities and events in the U.S. in support of the Mujahdein-e Khalq (MEK), an exiled Iranian resistance group that advocates for the complete overthrow of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his Islamist regime.

According to an FBI affidavit, the two Iranian agents were also preparing “target packages” – i.e., attacks — on individuals who posed threats to the Iranian regime on American soil.

Meanwhile, two former employees of Twitter were charged by the Justice Department with acting as illegal foreign agents of Saudi Arabia in the U.S.

The Saudi men are accused of using their positions at the company to aid Saudi Arabia by acquiring information on American citizens who oppose the policies of the kingdom and its leaders.

The accused were named as Ali Alzabarah, an engineer with the company who had access to personal information, account data and internet protocol addresses of Twitter users, and Ahmad Abouammo, who was a media partnerships manager and had access to email addresses and phone numbers of users.

For an more information about Iran’s espionage and influence ops in the U.S., click here

The Iranian agents, who have been in custody since their arrests, both struck deals with their prosecutors for reduced sentences in exchange for pleading guilty.

According to the original indictment against the Iranians, Doostdar traveled to the United States from Iran in the summer of 2017 to collect intelligence information about entities and individuals considered by the government of Iran to be their enemies — namely, Israeli and Jewish interests.

Doostdar is alleged to have conducted surveillance of the Rohr Chabad House, a Jewish institution in Chicago, including photographing the security features surrounding the facility.

Ghorbani is alleged to have attended a MEK rally in New York City in September 2017, during which he photographed individuals protesting against the Iranian regime.

Later that year, Doostdar returned to the U.S. from Iran, made contact with Ghorbani and paid him close to $2,000 in cash for 28 pictures Ghorbani had taken at the rally. Many of the pictures contained hand-written notes identifying the participants.

The indictment also alleged that Ghorbani traveled to Iran around March 2018 for an “in-person briefing.”  A few months later, Ghorbani attended the MEK-affiliated 2018 Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington, D.C., during which it appeared that he photographed speakers and participants.

 

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