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Iranian espionage plot in Cuba and Venezuela involving co-pilot of plane held in Argentina revealed

The Paraguayan president claims that Mohammad Khosraviragh, the co-pilot of the Emtrasur Boeing plane held at Ezeiza, underwent plastic surgery in Cuba to change his face

Cuba, Venezuela e Irán
Mohammad Khosraviraghl, copiloto del avión del Boeing de la aerolínea Emtrasur retenido en Ezeiza | Fotomontaje: Infobae

July 4, 2022 4:37pm

Updated: July 4, 2022 9:14pm

The former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was known for frequenting Latin America to meet with his friends of the "Bolivarian alliance." He would claim that he wanted to "counteract the link with the United States," a Cuban diplomat revealed a few years ago.

Between 2005 and 2013, Ahmadinejad traveled nine times to the Americas, always with stops in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

Nine years have passed since Ahmadinejad left his post, but the relationship between his country's government and Venezuela and Cuba has been maintained ever since. These three countries have several U.S. trade sanctions imposed on them.

According to an article by Gustavo Sierra published in Infobae, there are several shared political and economic interests between these three governments: Iran's GDP is 1.4 trillion dollars and Cuba's is barely 100 billion. Iran and Venezuela have oil, while Cuba has doctors, and expertise in infrastructure transportation to circumvent trade sanctions and sugar, a skill necessary to Tehran.  

There is also an exchange of transportation and technology. The rest of the interests are covered to finance their "clandestine" purchases in markets closed through official channels, money laundering, and financing through hybrid trade.

Sierra claims that this network also has relations with Hezbollah, the Lebanese military party created and financed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has a base of operations in the triple border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, as well as commercial and military operations in Venezuela.

In this context, a strong alliance was created between their intelligence services. All three nations maintain regimes that rely on espionage structures. 

"The Cubans have a well-known and capable intelligence service on the ground that can provide access, information and support to others who also have similar interests such as Iran, Venezuela and other nations hostile to the United States," said Professor Marzia Giambertoni of Brown University in Providence.

The family of Edgardo Rubén "Soheil" Assad, the son of Lebanese immigrants in Argentina who returned to his parents' country when he was 20 years old and an old acquaintance of intelligence services throughout the continent, was investigated for alleged links with Nidal Bazoun, a member of Hezbollah that was in Buenos Aires at the time of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center that killed 85 people. 

Assad allegedly leads a network of Cuban Shiites, which Iranian special agents use to frequently travel between Cuba and Venezuela. The group also manages one of Mahan Air's twice-weekly flights to Iran. 

Sierra believes that Mohammad Khosraviragh, the co-pilot of the Boeing Emtrasur airline plane held at Ezeiza and who, according to Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez, underwent plastic surgery in Cuba to change his face to enter the country.

In the case, it was reported that the co-pilot's real last name is Khosrviragh and that he was allegedly a high-ranking officer of the Iranian Quds Force, who had worked with the murdered General Qassem Soleimani and was in charge of "external special forces" such as those present in Cuba and Venezuela.