President Trump of course had no alternative but to deny emphatically that C.I.A. agents had been arrested and detained in Iran.
But the Iranian secret services have a high reputation and the Iranian news agency, FARS, not only lists the agents’ recruiters and handlers, it also published colour photographs and, in some instances, of their entire families, including small children. To say that these officers have been outed is an under-statement. Their identities are freely available for inspection for any country to which they could next be posted. Even though the Western news agencies blanked out the faces, anyone can view them on the web through Iranian outlets. It is interesting to note that the outstanding French secret service drama “Le Bureau” illustrated some of the same patterns of recruitment as those adopted by the Americans and duly itemised by the Iranian authorities.
Russian coverage is interesting because it refrains from republishing these photographs, yet it does publish the name of the head of Iranian counter-intelligence when the Iranians themselves avoid doing so. Moreover, the Iranians emphasise that recruitment took place in third countries and that Teheran was alerted to these developments by its allies. Since Qatar is its only real ally in the Near East other than Syria, Russian commentary goes out of its way to itemise likely allies as though to emphasise that Moscow had nothing at all to do with the operation, even though most would consider Russia an ally of Iran, certainly with respect to propping up the Assad régime in Syria and with respect to the Iranian determination to attain thermonuclear capabilities. A friend but not an ally, perhaps? But what about the Chinese? No mention is made of that possibility.
Similarly Russian press coverage of the seizure of the tanker sailing under British colours in the Persian Gulf has been somewhat circumspect, betraying an underlying anxiety lest events get out of control and lead to open warfare involving the United States. In which case Russia does not want to appear within the frame.