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IRAN: Book says U.S. spies pump Dubai visa applicants for intel

Dubai-gold The CIA stepped in to prevent the United States from closing a consulate in the Persian Gulf city-state of Dubai, arguing that it was a gold mine of human intelligence from Iran.

That's according to a new book, “City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism,” by former Associated Press correspondent Jim Krane.

The State Department tried “more than once” to shut down its consular services office in Dubai for budget reasons.

But it ran up against the resistance of senior intelligence officials. 

For decades, they'd been gleaning precious information about Iran by grilling hundreds of Iranian visa applicants, according to the book.

The CIA several times over the years managed to convince the State Department to make cuts elsewhere, Krane writes in the book, released in the U.S. this week. 

Iranians applying for U.S. visas in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai are “monitored, interrogated and, sometimes, recruited into spying on their own government” by Iran specialists and Farsi speakers working for the CIA or other American agencies, the book says. 

Those with Iranian military or government backgrounds are asked to return time and again, with agents “pressing them to collect more and deeper details,” while holding out the possibility of a U.S. visa so they can visit friends and family or consider emigration, Krane writes. 

“Some of these Iranians are recruited as long-term spies,” said Krane, who told the Times his sources were U.S. diplomats who served in the U.A.E. “I was given to understand that most of the Iranians' visa applications were eventually rejected.” 

Krane, who covered Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf for the Associated Press, said the so-called “visa window operation” dates back to the 1979 revolution. 

“The CIA's visa window has been so lucrative over the years that the agency has on several occasions vetoed the State Department's plans to shutter the Dubai consulate for budgetary reasons,” he said in a telephone interview. “The upshot is that the U.S. is able to gather significant intelligence on Iran without having an embassy, and it can do it from the comfort of Dubai.”

Tens of thousands of Iranians live in Dubai and many more regularly visit for business or tourism, flying in across the Gulf on one of hundreds of weekly flights from various Iranian cities to the multicultural commercial and port city.

From Dubai, Washington monitors Iran’s business relations, trade and cash flows in an intelligence operation that has been ongoing since the 1980s. 

Over the years the tiny consulate, dwarfed by the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, grew from a half-dozen American staff members to take over at least three floors in the Dubai World Trade Center, with spying a priority, said Krane, who is now pursuing a doctorate at Cambridge University in Britain. 

In 2006, the State Department opened a new Dubai department called the Iran Regional Presence office, the first U.S. mission aimed at Iran since Washington and Tehran severed ties following the 1979 Iranian revolution. 

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Comments () | Archives (6)

an interesting perspective. it makes a lot of sense that dubai would be used as an iranian information hub for the cia. dubai is the main link between iran and the us. bravo on compelling, investigative journalism!

No offense.............. But articles like this make me laugh. Iran is scared and America has so much powerful intelligence. Question remains what is America going to do? Intelligence is a two fold business. Instead of carrying out the old methods that do not work lets sit at a table and work out the differences. Iran is a negotiator so is America. Everything spins around currency. Ideology, philosophy, and religion they all need the currency to survive and stay alive. Unfortunately, arrogance of both sides never pays off. There is old saying dogs who bark do not bite. These two old dogs need to sit down and work their differences at a table no power play simply negotiations will open the door to mutual respect. The problem is who is going to be the bigger person to invite the other to the table. Only time will heal the differences. Embargo and sanctions will not bring down a country. Thanks to free market everything can be obtained. Looks like Iran pays for it and does not care. It has been working for 30 years now. Iran knows that they can sit and wait.
Funny thing is that even Bush was not able to do anything about it... this indicates that there is no clear policy developed for Iran. Iran knows it but is also aware that one day the capital will run out to obtain everything for a high price in the black market. Cutting off supplier will not work like mosquitoes these suppliers will pop up all over the world that will obtain for Iran as long as the price is right. Instead of encouraging these suppliers to open up their shop all over the world to make world an unsafe place lets sit down with the buyer of this suppliers and make a deal .

Such a simplistic perception of how things work. If true, it explains why the US intelligence has consistently failed in that region. Even Iranian public don't know about what their government up to similar to most other countries' nationals. But even if slightly true, I am sure a lot of interesting stories were woven to obtain US visa. In fact, there are plenty visas have been issued in that office opposite to what this half baked book claims. This is amazing how easy has become to cook up some stories these days by using the ususal unknown sources.

This does not sound very convincing and it seems to have other motives.
Why would the US be trying to close one of their busiest Embassy? Iranians are aware of the prying eyes of US and no one with any useful information will be easily allowed to travel to US. And according to the article they only opened Iran Regional Presence in 2006 so why try to close it!!!


Uh, I guess that cover is now blown. Thanks Mr. newshound, America is now safer, thanks to your pursuit of capitalism through bad journalism.


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