#SpyCables: Iranian spy operations in SA revealed

A dossier claims Iranian agents used cellphone & Persian rug shops as well as news agencies as a cover.

FILE: A screengrab from Al Jazeera’s Spy Cables video shows a South African State Security leaked document.

JOHANNESBURG - Newly released Spy Cables have revealed that Iranian spies apparently tried to use a front company in South Africa to buy materials to make weapons despite international trade sanctions.

The Al Jazeera news network on Monday released what's been described as the biggest intelligence leak in South Africa's democratic history which includes reports written by South African spies on their exchanges with other foreign agencies.

The news network received the information through a digital leak and the volume of information is believed to be on par with WikiLeaks.

A dossier on Iran is among the cables claims, saying that Iranian agents used cellphone and Persian rug shops as well as news agencies in the country as a cover for covert operations.

Al Jazeera's veteran investigative reporter Phil Rees said during a Spy Cables video, "South Africa's secret report says Iran is working to beat sanctions and is buying materials to make weapons and the British think so too. A 2009 MI6 cable warns of a front company for the production of missile launchers and rocket bodies, it highlights an upcoming business trip to Iran by a duo United Kingdom/ South African citizen."

The document reads: "We would be grateful of any action you take under your export licencing laws to prevent the proposed visits going ahead."


The Spy Cables have also revealed how a South African spy was allegedly asked to connect the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with Palestine's Hamas while the United States claim they have no formal relationship with the Gaza government.

The Spy Cables contain a claim that a CIA agent approached a South African spy in East Jerusalem in 2012 asking for help in contacting Hamas.

In the Al Jazeera Spy Cables video, a reporter says, "South Africa writes that the CIA is desperate to make inroads into Hamas and Gaza, he recommends they help. By doing so, South Africa will stand a chance of benefiting from the interaction, in that we have established the collection priorities and requirements of the CIA. So in other words, they would know what the CIA is up to."

The Spy Cables also contain information about a plot to sell stolen weapons in Johannesburg and implicate senior politicians in nuclear talks with Iranian officials.


At the same time, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Cape Town says government needs to establish how documents, said to be of a sensitive nature relating to state security matters, were leaked.

DA Member of Parliament David Maynier says State Security Minister David Mahlobo must brief the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence as a matter of urgency.

"It is a huge concern. The committee needs to be briefed to determine whether the documents are likely to reveal any wrongdoing on the part of the State Security Agency."

Meanwhile lobby group, Right to Know has expressed concern over the leaking of those classified documents from the State Security Agency.

The organisation's Murray Hunter says government needs to adopt more openness and less secrecy.

"We view this leak as an extremely momentous act of journalism, and one of the biggest disclosures that reveals the backdoor dealings between these intelligence services. I think this is something that really peels back the layer of secrecy that has surrounded our intelligence services for far too long."