Earlier this month, Iran’s minister of information (intelligence) Kholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei spent four days in Moscow as guest of the new head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Alexander Bortnikov.
The encounter was an oddity in that the two spymasters are exceptionally well-placed at the top of their respective government hierarchies as heads of rival agencies competing in the same world regions.
Mohseni Ejei is one of Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei‘s most trusted aides; his relations with president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are correct but cool.
Bortnikov is regarded as an intimate of President Dmitry Medvedev.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 362 of Aug. 29: The Medvedev-Putin Duo’s Debut).
Both manage extremely competent spy networks in the Caucasian and Central Asia. The Iranian is also in charge of terrorist cells in those regions.
Therefore, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Tehran and Moscow, their meeting was the outcome of a quiet agreement in principle between Medvedev and Khamenei to join forces in the spheres of their two intelligence chiefs’ competence.
This has necessitated putting behind them the strains and distrust which marked their relations in recent years.
On the Russian side, there was suspicion that Iran was scheming against its influence in the Caucasian and Central Asia to win a subversive foothold in the Russian Muslim communities around the Volga River; whereas Iran attributed ulterior motives to the Kremlin on such contentious issues as its nuclear program – Moscow consistently reneged on their contracts for nuclear cooperation under American pressure, and the disputed control of Caspian Sea resources. The Russians were also suspected of secretly aiding Iran’s underground Communist Party.
Iran‘s spymaster enjoys high favor for his iron fist
The heads of the two clandestine organizations long pitted against each other must therefore have come together under a truce based on a common objective.
Iran’s information minister’s functions differ from those of his Russian host in that, unlike the FBS, he does not govern all branches of Iranian espionage and security. In today’s Islamic Republic, every important Iranian personage owns a personal intelligence outfit and often a terrorist militia as well.
Ayatollah Khamenei, for example, commands a private army of secret agents who take orders from him alone. They also operate several terrorist offshoots in the Persian Gulf and Western Europe on the supreme ruler’s behalf.
The Revolutionary Guards too run independent clandestine-terror arms in Iran and abroad.
In this violent jungle, Mohseni Ejei is highly respected as an ultra-radical, exceptionally brutal functionary of the revolutionary regime. He came to the ministerial job after years as an outstanding prosecutor general who had large numbers of enemies of the regime put to death.
In the ministerial post, he shows the same iron fist in suppressing any nationalist movements which venture to raise their heads against the clerical regime in Tehran – whether Arab, Kurd, Azeri or Baluchi. His successful campaigns are admired in Ali Khamenei’s inner councils.
A covert partnership flaunted at the Shanghai summit
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, the Iranian and Russian spymasters have plenty of material to trade.
The Iranian minister is a unique repository for the secrets of the covert American, British and Gulf emirates’ activities among the republic’s minorities, and the Caucasian and the Caspian littoral nations.
The Russian FBS director is no less endowed on Western covert agencies operating in the Caucasian and Central Asian regions.
In the new climate of Russian-American rivalry, their years of bitter competition have made way for a pragmatic discussion between the pair on how best to share their assets to combat the Western undercover forces operating on their common turf.
Bortnikov made a point of inviting the Iranian minister to view the concluding stage of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) command and staff anti-terror exercise, “Volgograd-Anti-Terror 2008” on Sept. 3-4. He also sat in on a conference of security and anti-terrorist chiefs of the SCO member states, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia, in his new capacity as an important strategic ally of Moscow.
The member states of the Shanghai group cover an area of more than 30 million sq. km inhabited by nearly one and a half billion people, a quarter of the world’s population.
At least three the anti-terror chiefs sitting at the conference, those of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, must have swallowed hard when they saw Mohseni Ejei, infamous for waging Iran’s terrorist and subversive operations against their governments, symbolically arm in arm with their Russian hosts.
Russian and Iranian intelligence to collaborate in troubled world regions
Our Moscow sources confirm that the Russians would never have flaunted their new partnership with Iran at the SCO summit without first clearing their new policy departure with Beijing.
The Chinese government, reported in the West to have cold-shouldered Russia’s aggressive policy on Georgia, is apparently in favor of its strategic intelligence-sharing pact with Iran against the United States and its allies.
Special Iranian units may therefore be expected to take part in the next “Volgograd Anti-Terror 2009” exercise, in the guise of “anti-terror” units. Tehran would thus be privileged over its fellow Shanghai group observers India, Mongolia and Pakistan.
On Sept. 9, Mohseni Ejei and his advisers presented themselves in Moscow to sign a string of secret pacts with Bortnikov, formalizing the new intelligence cooperative arrangements between their organizations.
Our sources have not yet seen the text of those top-secret pacts, but they can confirm that Iran and Russian have committed to trade information on US and other pro-Western agencies' activities – not only in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but also in Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan.
They will also launch joint covert operations in those lands. A joint Russian-Iranian intelligence structure will be set up for ad hoc decisions on how their undercover agencies will work together in these operations.