Leaked Iranian files show it recruited abandoned CIA sources in Iraq

An unprecedented leak of Iranian intelligence documents shows Iran often outmanoeuvred the US in the battle for dominance in Iraq by recruiting abandoned CIA sources and reportedly getting access to American spy equipment.

Around 700 pages of files documenting the Iranian ministry of intelligence’s operations in Iraq were leaked to The Intercept website, the first time that the Islamic Republic has suffered a public leak on this scale.

The documents, written mainly in 2014 and 2015, reveal the scale of Iran’s influence in neighbouring Iraq and how its intelligence operatives tried to capitalise on the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 for its own ends. 

A major tactic was to recruit Iraqis who had once worked for the CIA but were cast aside after the US withdrawal, leaving the sources without an income and terrified for their lives. 

CIA handlers nicknamed one Iraqi man “Donnie Brasco”, after a legendary FBI undercover operative who infiltrated the New York mafia. But the man switched sides to Iran in 2014 and was recorded in the Iranian files as “Source 134992”. 

The man gave the Iranians the identities of other Iraqis working for the CIA, as well as the location of CIA safe houses and details of America’s intelligence operations inside Iraq. 

“I will turn over to you all the documents and videos that I have from my training course,” the man told Iran, according to one file. “And pictures and identifying features of my fellow trainees and my subordinates.”

The files shed light on how senior Iraqi officials and military officers were aiding Iran. Lt. Gen. Hatem al-Maksusi, head of military intelligence in the Iraqi defence ministry, reportedly told Iran: “All of the Iraqi army’s intelligence — consider it yours.”

The files claim that he offered Iran access to sophisticated spying equipment that the US had given Iraq to help fight against terrorist groups. 

The general denied working for Iran and disputed the statements attributed to him in the Iranian files. 

Iran’s vast military, political, and intelligence operations in Iraq are run mainly by Qassem Soleimani, the shadowy Iranian general who heads the Revolutionary Guard’s elite expeditionary Quds Force. 

The files appear to show internal rivalry between the Iran intelligence ministry and the Quds Force. One ministry file complains that Gen. Soleimani was showboating in Iraq to further his ambitions of one day becoming Iraq’s president.

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