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Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS)
Vezarat-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Keshvar (VEVAK)


Little public information exists on SAVAK's successor agency, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS, in Farsi the Vezarat-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Keshvar or VEVAK), initially known by the acronym SAVAMA. The agency's first director was Major General Fardust, who was arrested in December 1985 for being a "Soviet informer." After this major arrest the revolutionary government's keen desire to gain an upper hand over leftist guerrilla organizations might have influenced certain IRP leaders to relax their previously unrelenting pursuit of military intelligence personnel.

A 1983-1984 reorganization of the security organization led by Mohammadi Rayshahri, concurrently the head of the Army Military Revolutionary Tribunal, created the MOIS, which assumed the role formerly played by SAVAMA.

After the revolution Khomeini's revolutionary courts reportedly killed 90 percent of the SAVAK, with the exception of members who worked in the foreign and domestic counter-espionage department. Key religious leaders, including Majlis speaker Hashemi-Rafsanjani, insisted on recalling former agents to help the regime eliminate domestic opposition. Consequently, some intelligence officers and low-ranking SAVAK and army intelligence officials were asked to return to government service because of their specialized knowledge of the Iranian left. Others had acquired in-depth knowledge of Iraq's Baath Party and proved to be invaluable in helping decision makers.

Although it was impossible to verify, observers speculated that some of SAVAK's intelligence-gathering operations were turned over to MOIS/VEVAK. However, the ideological underpinnings of the new agency were radicallyl different from its Imperial predecessor. The Islamic Republic of Iran was Khomeini' philosophy of Velayat-e Faqih, or "Islamic Rule," which called for imposing absolute authority over the populace, and on the other upon extending this authority to all Muslims, i.e. "exporting revolution."

The first head of the MOIS was Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri under then President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The second President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani appointed Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Fallahian Khuzestani as his head of the MOIS.

The MOIS operated in the shadows until the late 1990s when a large number of Iranian dissidents and intellectuals started being killed. Murdered of prominent Iranian dissidents occured in 1997 and 1998. The attacks caught the attention of the Iranian populace, which demanded answers and convictions for the murders. At first the MOIS accused a rogue cell within the MOIS under the direction of foreign powers for the killings. Hard-line Iranian politicians pointed the finger at Iranian reformist groups. Later journalists like Akbar Ganji revealed the involvement of ministry personnel such as former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former MOIS chief Ali Fallahian. Eventually the deputy minister of the MOIS Said Emami and at least 16 others known as the "Said Emama Gang" were charged with murders. Said Emami died before he was able to go to trail after eating an exfoliating material. The official cause of death was suicide, but it was thought that he might have been killed by other members of the MOIS or agents working for clerics who might have come under investigation for the murders if Emami went to trial. During the trial, families and lawyers of the victims claimed that they were unable to the case files.

On 23 February 1999 the conservative-dominated parliament overwhelmingly approved Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi to take over the MOIS. This came after the ministry made a shock admission in January 1999 that its own "rogue agents" murdered four liberal dissidents in November and December 1998. The assassinations targeted nationalist dissident Dariush Foruhar and his wife, as well as the poet Mohammad Mokhtari and writer-translator Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh. The intelligence ministry's admission led to the resignation in early February 1999 of its previous head, Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, after weeks of mounting pressure from supporters of Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami. In an ironic twist to events, the incoming intelligence minister probably turned out to be far more hard-line toward reformists and dissidents than the man he replaced.

Moderate parliamentary deputy Seyyed Ahmad Rasuli-Nejad charged that the outgoing intelligence chief was being used as a scapegoat and that there would be no changes in the MOIS because the old cadre was still there. The naming of the 43-year-old Yunesi to head the MOIS came as the investigation into the killing of the dissidents had slowed, after getting off to an initially strong start. The new head of the intelligence services was a protege of one of Khatami's leading conservative rivals, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri, who came in a distant third in the presidential race in 1997. Yunesi's appointment put Reyshahri back in indirect control of the ministry, which he had strongly influenced after its inception in 1979. The Islamic Republic's first intelligence minister, Ali-Akbar Fallahian, was also a Reyshahri protege, and Reyshahri himself later served as the ministry's head. The only intelligence minister not associated with Reyshahri was the outgoing Dori-Najafabadi.

In January 2001 the court decided that the group had worked alone without outside influence whether by foreign powers of domestic clerics. Of the sixteen charged: 3 were sentenced to be executed, 5 were given life in jail, 7 were given sentences of ten years of less, finally one individual who had admitted to helping kill two dissidents was acquitted. The judgment was appealed in August 2001 and as of June 2008 the judgments had not been handed down. As a result of the trial and the killings Hojatoleslam Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi was forced to resign. Reformist President Mohammad Khatami subsequently had two heads of the MOIS, Hojatoleslam Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi and Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi, during his presidency It was suggested that under President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) the ministry had become more accountable and enjoyed greater public trust..

On 24 August 2005, under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei received 217 of 284 possible votes with 51 against, with 13 abstentions. Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei was a graduate of Qom's Haqqani School, and many other alumni were active throughout Iran's government and were located in some of the most sensitive positions of power. The Haqqani School was noteworthy because it served as a connection between so many individuals, but it also denoted an extremist school of thought advocating violence against one's enemies and strict clerical control over social and governmental affairs.

Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei had previously served as the chief of the Special Court for the Clergy. On 25 January 1999 Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholam Hussein Mohseni-Ejei was appointed as the prosecutor for the Special Court for the Clergy. The Special Court for the Clergy was charged with investigating cases of corruption, unlawful acts involving clerics, "accusations that are incompatible with the status of the clergy," and crimes that affect the reputation of the clergy. The court can try laymen when clerics are involved, too. Special Court chief Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholamhussein Mohseni-Ejei, however, reportedly ignored malfeasances committed by those with whom he was financially involved or politically sympathetic. Mohseni-Ejei was the judge in the corruption trial of former Tehran Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi. Karbaschi was imprisoned for financial improprieties, while the clerics associated with the case went unpunished.

Mohseni-Ejei was the Revolutionary Court's representative in the MOIS. At that time, he lived in a building owned by Akbar Khoshkush, a MOIS employee subsequently held in connection with the killings of political dissidents. Also living in the building were Mohseni-Ejei's neighbors in the building were MOIS officials Said Emami and Mustafa Kazemi, two other suspects in the murders of dissidents. During Mohseni-Ejei's watch as representative to the MOIS, Khoshkush was implicated in a scandal involving the illegal import and sale of mobile telephones. During the hearings relating to that case, it was revealed that Khoshkush used money from the mobile phone deal to construct the building, yet Khoshkush was not prosecuted. This also raised the question of how an MOIS official was allowed to participate in such financial transactions.

In mid-August 2005, just days before President Mahmud Ahmadinejad submitted his list of prospective cabinet ministers to the legislature, there were rumors that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini would take over supervision of the MOIS from the parliament. Hard-line legislator Elias Naderan allegedly was gathering signatures for a bill that would make this law. The proposal met with criticism from several parts of the political spectrum, including reformists. In September 2005 newspapers were full of reports that hard-line legislators were promoting a bill that would reduce parliamentary oversight of the MOIS. The object was to separate the counterintelligence unit from the rest of the ministry, Fars News Agency reported on 30 August. In that way, ministry personnel would be subject to independent supervision.

Reformist commentators were particularly outraged by the proposal. Said Hajjarian, a founder of the ministry, warned that separating the counterintelligence unit from the rest of the ministry was the prelude to eliminating parliamentary supervision and creating "parallel" intelligence bodies. Hard-line parliamentarian Mohammad Hussein Farhangi said he favored separating the counterintelligence unit from the rest of the ministry, but he opposed making the ministry an organization, because it would no longer be accountable to the legislature. The opinions of President Ahmadinejad and Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei on this issue were not known.

As of June 2007 the head of MIOS was still Hojatoleslam-Islam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:53:07 ZULU