Western intelligence sources cited by the French newsletter Intelligence Online say Gen. Reza Shahi has 400 fighters behind him. He’s just one card in the hands of the Tehran regime, as a CIA veteran tells Haaretz.
Iran’s take on domestic security is increasingly reminiscent of the approach in China or North Korea, Norman Roule, a retired 34-year veteran of the CIA, told Haaretz in a conversation that echoed the fascinating analysis he recently published in the United States.
As Roule puts it, despite the U.S.-led sanctions on Iran that are badly damaging its economy, the regime of the Islamic Republic is willing to invest huge sums to stay in power, even at the cost of severely repressing dissent. The sagging economy, which is one reason for the violent riots last month, hasn’t deterred the leaders.
Iran’s government and private sector have invested about $400 million in technology for cutting the Iranian people off from the internet, Roule said. During the recent demonstrations, the regime did just that; the leaders have discussed setting up a separate Iranian internet like the one in China. The efforts at repression also include major investments to jam foreign television broadcasts, all in an attempt to isolate the country.
Roule retired in September 2017 after serving in a number of key positions at the CIA. His last post, to which he was appointed in 2008, was national intelligence manager for Iran at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates the entire U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA and FBI. Roule’s position made him “the principal intelligence community official responsible for overseeing all aspects of national intelligence policy and activities related to Iran,” as he puts it.
In other words, he had responsibility for everything U.S. intelligence knew or wanted to know about Iran. An important role was played by Israeli intelligence, whose work and leaders Roule has known well. This includes former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan and Tamir Pardo, and the current director, Yossi Cohen.
Following his retirement, Roule became an adviser to the nonprofit group United Against Nuclear Iran, which has close ties to defense officials in the United States, Germany, Israel and other Western countries. It’s chaired by former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and boasts a bipartisan roster of former senior officials from the intelligence community, the military and the State Department.
Its stated objecting is “to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons.” Pardo and Dagan – the latter died in 2016 – have been among the supporters of United Against Nuclear Iran, and about a year ago Mossad chief Cohen laid out his views on Iran in a speech to the group in New York.