Cablegate: [Source Removed] Targeted by Iranian Regime


DE RUEHLO #0131 0211217
O 211217Z JAN 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 000131



EO 12958 DECL: 01/19/2020

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Greg Berry, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C/NF) SUMMARY: [DETAIL REMOVED] and prominent VOA commentator Ali Reza Nourizadeh recently told [NAME REMOVED] he had been targeted by Iranian intelligence, an allegation confirmed by London LEGATT. Nourizadeh was approached some months ago by Mohammad Reza Sadeqinia, an Iranian national who introduced himself as a “big fan” of Nourizadeh’s. Nourizadeh met Sadeqinia on several occasions in London and Washington, DC, but became suspicious when Sadeqinia took large numbers of photos, including of Nourizadeh’s vehicle. Sadeqinia was arrested in California on charges of soliciting murder after he attempted to hire a hitman to kill Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd. Because his pattern of behavior towards Nourizadeh was similar to his interactions with Sharmahd, FBI shared the threat information with UK authorities, who subsequently warned Nourizadeh. END SUMMARY.

2. (C/NF) Ali Reza Nourizadeh [DETAILS REMOVED] had been visited by British anti-terrorism police who informed him he had been targeted by the Iranian regime. The UK authorities (who,[NAME REMOVED] later learned had received the threat information from the FBI) told Nourizadeh that Reza Sadeqinia, a man who had visited Nourizadeh several times in London and Washington, DC, was working for the Iranian intelligence services and gathering information on Nourizadeh’s habits. They advised Nourizadeh that Sadeqinia had been arrested in California for soliciting the murder of Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd.

3. (C/NF) Nourizadeh, obviously shaken by this news, told [NAME REMOVED] Sadeqinia had contacted him several months before, claiming to be a “big fan” of Nourizadeh’s. Nourizadeh became suspicious after Sadeqinia insisted on taking large numbers of photos, including shots of Nourizadeh’s car and garage. His suspicions were confirmed after he received a message from a well-placed friend who told Nourizadeh he had seen dozens of photos of him on the desk of Iranian Deputy Intelligence Minister Alavi. At that point, Nourizadeh stopped taking Sadeqinia’s calls and heard nothing more about the matter until he was visited by UK anti-terror police January 14.

4. (C/NF) London LEGATT confirmed the arrest of Sadeqinia in the U.S. after he attempted to hire a man to kill Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd of Tondar Radio. Prior to the solicitation of the hitman, videos of Sharmahd had begun to appear on YouTube with commentary that he was acting against Iran and an enemy of the state. Sadeqinia apparently admitted his surveillance of both Sharmahd and Nourizadeh and claimed he was working on behalf of Iranian intelligence. After similar videos of Nourizadeh were discovered, the FBI authorized UK authorities to share the threat information with Nourizadeh. UK authorities are working with Nourizadeh to improve his personal security, and Nourizadeh is cooperating by providing information about his interactions with Sadeqinia.

5. (C/NF) COMMENT: Nourizadeh is a well-known figure both inside and outside Iran, and is an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime, so it is unsurprising that the regime would want to keep a close eye on him. If, however, the regime has targeted Nourizadeh for assassination, as it appears to have done with Sharmahd, it marks a clear escalation in the regime’s attempts to intimidate critics outside its borders, and could have a chilling effect on journalists, academics and others in the West who until recently felt little physical threat from the regime. Nourizadeh, while clearly taking the threat seriously, will not be cowed -- he’s faced this type of threat before (many years ago when he first left Iran), and he has confidence in the British authorities’ ability to protect him. In fact, he has encouraged other prominent opposition leaders like Shirin Ebadi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf to relocate to London for their own safety. END COMMENT.
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