RFL/RE – A senior U.S. official has told Reuters that Washington believes agents under the direction of Tehran were “directly involved” in the killing of an Iranian dissident in November in Turkey.
Masud Molavi Vardanjani, a former intelligence operative for Iran before he began exposing corruption involving Iranian officials, was shot and killed in Istanbul on November 14.
“Given Iran’s history of targeted assassinations of Iranian dissidents and the methods used in Turkey, the United States government believes that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was directly involved in Vardanjani’s killing,” the senior U.S. administration official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Reuters last week quoted two Turkish officials as saying that two intelligence officers in Iran’s consulate in Istanbul had instigated his killing.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted late on April 1 that he was disturbed by reports that Iranian diplomats were involved in the killing of a dissident. Pompeo, who did not name Vardanjani, said the reports are “fully consistent” with the diplomats’ assignments.
Pompeo in November had previously described Vardanjani’s killing as “another tragic example in a long string of suspected Iran-backed assassination attempts” of Iranian dissidents. He had not elaborated further.
Vardanjani fled Iran to Istanbul in June 2018 after being put under investigation by Iranian authorities.
A Turkish police report published last month said Vardanjani had an “unusual profile,” and that he had worked in cybersecurity at Iran’s Defense Ministry before becoming a vocal critic of the country’s regime.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been running high in recent years after President Donald Trump pulled his country out of a 2015 nuclear deal with other global powers that aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.