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Intelligence: whose man in Teheran?

This is the story of a double agent with three--perhaps four--masters. We can identify him only by his Central Intelligence Agency code name, SDTramp. His convoluted tale is just one of the odd stories contained in shredded C.I.A. documents reconstructed by the students who captured the U.S. Embassy in Teheran.

According to the documents, SDTramp, an Iranian Jew, was a magazine publisher and a former official in the Ministry of Information. Before the revolution he worked for Soviet military intelligence (G.R.U.), "as a source of information on Iranian internal affairs." His "handler" was a Tass correspondent named Nikolan Ivanovich Korol, who worked for the G.R.U.

On April 27, 1979, the C.I.A.'s Teheran station reported, Korol arrived in city and met with SDTramp, asking him to "gather information on 'Israeli policies' and to 'contact friends.'" Korol, of course, did not know that his old agent was by then working in postrevolutionary Iran as a "unilateral asset" for the C.I.A. and that he would report the details of their meeting to his American control. The Shah's secret police, SAVAK, apparently knew of his contacts with Soviet intelligence, yet the captured cables show that the C.I.A. was not sure that the Iranian was not working for others as well. They note that the spy told his C.I.A. handlers that while he never worked for an Israeli service, he did have "a fairly close relationship with a Soloman Dyan, whom subject felt could possibly be an Israeli intell [igence] officer." Moreover, SDTramp was also approached by another Soviet G.R.U. agent, code-named "PDPI" by the C.I.A., who "directed" him to go to Israel and gather more information. (After some debate, the C.I.A. allowed SDTramp to keep a "large sum of money given him by the Soviets.")

At that point, C.I.A. headquarters ordered the Teheran station to identify SDTramp to Israeli intelligence as a "unilateral agent, give them all the facts and offer to share him." A follow-up cable continued:

Despite loss of much of our OP [operations] capability against targets such as those described above that would be of interest to Israeli liaison, and despite the latter's own loss of an Iranian operational base with the flight of the large Jewish community there, we are interested in learning more about this apparent RIS [Russian intelligence services] MO [modus operandi] for operating against Israel.

In April 1979 SDTramp received a bonus of 120,000 rials, about $1,700. The C.I.A. station reported, "He was most appreciative." And well he should have been, as a Jewish spy working in Khomeini's Islamic Republic. One wonders what happened to this double agent--and where his ultimate loyalty lay.

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Author:Holland, Max; Bird, Kai
Publication:The Nation
Date:Dec 8, 1984
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