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Moscow-Tehran technology and intelligence sharing high, as Iranians’ spying for Russia becomes visible

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Iran and Russia might have agreed on sharing intelligence assets abroad. That is confirmed by the fact that Swedish authorities arrested the Iranians who were spying for Russian intelligence.

Authorities in Sweden have charged two brothers, one of whom worked in a highly secretive Swedish intelligence unit, with spying for Russian military intelligence for a decade. The charges resulted from a six-year investigation led by the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), which is the country’s counterintelligence agency. SAPO reportedly launched the probe in 2017, based on suspicions that it harbored a spy in its personnel ranks.

The two brothers have been named by Swedish media as Payam Kia, 35, and Peyman Kia, 42. They were reportedly born in Iran and became Swedish citizens in 1994. It is also reported that Payam Kia worked for SAPO and had access to classified information from a host of Swedish government agencies. SAPO accuses the two men of having worked “jointly” to pass information to the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known broadly as GRU.

It is hard to say Tehran was guided by the Russians while infiltrating its spies or illegal immigrants into SAPO.

According to Swedish authorities, the two men began spying for Russia in September of 2011 and continued until the fall of 2021. Peyman Kia allegedly acted as a courier, passing information and payments between his brother and his Russian handlers. Per Lindqvist, chief prosecutor for Sweden’s National Security Unit, claimed that the Kia brothers case involved “extremely sensitive topics”, but did not elaborate. Some reports claim that Payam Kia had access to the files of Swedish spies operating abroad.

The younger of the two brothers was reportedly arrested in September of 2021. His older brother was arrested in November of the same year. 

The fact they have been spying for Russia from September 2011 is alarming. It’s doubtful the exposed Iranians spied for Russia alone and had no connection to Tehran’s intelligence. We can assume they took the initiative to seek cooperation with the Russians. As of 2011, however, the scale of confrontation between Russia and the West was not so explicit, and ethnic Iranians in Sweden would rather approach Tehran on possible cooperation.

If they worked for Iran and spied for Russia, the scale of sensitive information sharing between Russia and Iran over the past decade takes on a new light. If Iran has really given Russians the opportunity to use its valuable agents, the extent and content of the information Moscow might provide to Tehran is extremely worrying.

If not sharing intelligence, Russia might have given Iran sensitive technologies, like nuclear, in return. This hypothesis could explain the speed of progress Iran has shown just over the past ten years, as missile technology appeared to be a good alternative. Russia has been seeking to get ballistic missiles from Iran for the past 2 months, for its war against Ukraine. This is obviously not about missiles used by Iranian proxies to make attacks on Israel. Russia is likely to have such high interest in Iranian missiles as it is familiar with their technical specifications and technology.

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