Iran said on Tuesday it had dismantled a US spy network, after Washington announced it would deploy 1,000 more troops to the Middle East and as key powers expressed concerns about regional tensions.
Tehran’s announcement came a day after it said its uranium stockpile will on June 27 surpass a limit agreed in the 2015 nuclear deal, a multilateral agreement Washington unilaterally abandoned in May last year.
Tensions between Tehran and the US have escalated ever since, with Washington bolstering its military presence in the region, reimposing sanctions and blacklisting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.
“Following clues in the American intelligence services, we recently found the new recruits Americans had hired and dismantled a new network,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA said, quoting an intelligence ministry official.
It said some members of the alleged CIA network had been arrested and handed over to the judiciary, while others still required “additional investigations”.
In what it termed a “wide-reaching blow” to US intelligence, IRNA said Tehran had carried out the operation in cooperation with “foreign allies”, without naming any state.
The agency’s source did not specify how many agents were arrested or if they were operating only in Iran.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday urged all sides “to show restraint.”
“We would prefer not to see any steps that could introduce additional tensions in the already unstable region,” he told journalists.
And China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned all sides “not to take any actions to provoke the escalation of tension… and not to open a Pandora’s box.”
He urged Washington to “change its practise of extreme pressure” but also called on Tehran not to abandon the nuclear agreement “so easily.”
On Monday, Washington piled on the pressure against Iran by announcing a new troop deployment.
“I have authorised approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes”, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.
The United States has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, an accusation Tehran denies as “baseless.”