Sheridan Bahar
Motivated Security Policy and Transnational Security Analyst

Iran’s Agents in US Cities

In 1994, an Iranian suicide bomber drove a van loaded with explosives into the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, murdering 90 people. Two decades later, the Iranian threat remains acute. US. government officials are warning Jewish institutions across the US to be vigilant of possible terror attacks by Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah. We need to do more to be safe in our US cities.

Iranian agents are a growing threat to national security. Just this past spring, the Manhattan Federal Court convicted Ali Kourani, a man from the Bronx, in connection with attempted terrorist plots in New York City. In another case, it convicted a naturalized U.S. citizen of Iranian descent who spent a year plotting a failed attack in Washington, D.C. or New York City. It was also very alarming when Iran’s Foreign Ministry directly threatened an American think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and its CEO, Mark Dubowitz. The United States ought not to take any Iranian threat lightly.

To strengthen the safety of the Jewish community across the country, U.S. intel officials must work closely with local and state officials to identify and detain suspected Iranian agents. The United States also needs to identify persons associated with Iran or one of its proxies. In an important first step, the Trump administration designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity. This move was overdue as the IRGC’s primary goal is to support and fund terrorism worldwide.

We must stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities. In doing so, the federal government must be in cooperation with local authorities. The U.S. is limited in its surveillance of U.S. persons, including U.S. permanent residents. However, U.S. officials must identify U.S. citizens who have continuous contact through constant phone calls or travel to Iran. The U.S. must also execute a law to require any naturalized U.S. citizen of Iranian descent to renounce Iranian nationality. This policy further enables U.S. officials to identify who has allegiance to the Islamic republic.

The goal is not to target Americans of Iranian descent. The U.S. is home to almost a million Iranian Americans who make a great contribution to American society. The goal is to raise awareness that Iranian agents are well among us, and we need to identify them. Last month, a dual Iranian American citizen was arrested in San Diego, California for monitoring Jewish Centers and American Persian Centers around the country. Tehran is increasing its operatives dispatch to the U.S. There are more and more Iranian agents in our country with goals to spy on Israeli, Jewish, and Persian communities across the country. We are no longer safe in our country if we ignore them.

The events that happened in Argentina should never happen on American soil. U.S. officials must continue working hard at identifying and prosecuting any persons associated with Iran or its proxies like Hezbollah. Jewish and Persian institutes must remain alert and report any suspicious activity to authorities. Local authorities must work closely with federal officials at reporting and identifying any suspicious event or person. U.S. authorities must execute a policy that requires naturalized U.S. citizens of Iran to renounce their Iranian citizenship. They should monitor U.S. persons with constant trips or connections to Iran. Taken together, these actions will keep our country safe from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

About the Author
Sheridan Bahar is an M.A. graduate at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University with research, analytical, and intelligence experience. He Possesses social, political, economic, historical, and cultural knowledge of the Middle East with fluency in Farsi, Dari, and Hebrew languages.
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