Iran's intelligence authorities announced Monday they have arrested 17 spies hired by the U.S. government's Central Intelligence Agency, a claim that officials with the Trump administration immediately pushed back on.
An unnamed director of the counter-espionage of the Islamic Republic Intelligence Ministry said at a press conference Monday that all 17 spies were Iranian nationals and worked at sensitive areas in their country, including positions in the "economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber fields or their counterpart private sector."
The spies were reportedly enticed to work for the U.S. with "tempting" promises, including U.S. visas and residency as well as a job in America and even medical treatment for themselves or loved ones suffering from an illness.
The semi-official Fars news agency published images that Iran's Intelligence Ministry claimed showed CIA officers interacting with the alleged spies. Some of those arrested have already been sentenced to death or a long imprisonment, the news agency said.
However, officials with the Trump administration immediately pushed back against the claim by Iran, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying in an interview with Fox News that "The Iranian regime has a long history of lying."
President Donald Trump was more explicit in his denials about the purported captured spies in a tweet sent Monday morning.
"The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!" Trump wrote Monday.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf region have ratcheted up recently after Washington withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and sanctions renewed on Iran. On Friday, the "Stena Impero" tanker was seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces after they say the tanker collided with a fishing boat and then failed to respond to calls from the vessel. Twenty-three crew members were aboard the vessel when it was seized by Iran, but no injuries were reported.
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