The Protectors: The ministry with the remit to defend the Iranian regime

How Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security is ‘above the law’ and answerable only to the Supreme Leader

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/File Photo

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) is the country’s most powerful and well-financed government department with a remit to protect the regime.

Under the direct guidance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ministry’s work includes infiltrating opposition groups and arresting spies.

It tracks dissidents, journalists and international companies to protect against global conspiracies and internal threats, according to the US government.

“It has recruited cyber-threat groups, front companies and hackers, and has employed malware to target innocent civilians and companies and advance the regime’s malign agenda around the world,” it said in September.

The ministry is said to have some 25,000 people on the payroll and has a broad reach across all of Iran’s security apparatus.

Under Iran’s constitution, all organisations must share information with MOIS – including the Quds Force, which handles most extraterritorial operations such as assassinations and espionage.

“While their tactics may be somewhat outdated compared to other organisations, the breadth of their coverage, the capabilities at their disposal and the unrestricted authorities they have are unmatched,” said John Sano, formerly deputy director of CIA branch, the National Clandestine Service.

“The MOIS literally is above the law. They are accountable only to the Supreme Leader.”

Assadollah Assadi, the alleged spymaster at the centre of the plot to blow up a dissidents’ rally, worked at the centre of the ministry’s European spy network on the third floor of Iran’s embassy in Vienna, Austria.

His immediate boss is said to be Reza Amiri Moghaddam, a key figure within the ministry, who reported directly to the regime’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi.

The US Treasury designated MOIS in 2012 for its support of terrorist groups, for rights abuses in Iran and backing the Syrian regime of Bashir Al Assad.

The notice accused the group of supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Qaeda.