The Islamic Republic of Iran is set to establish its fourth major intelligence agency, primarily to counter rising domestic opposition. This move isn’t the creation of a new entity, but an elevation of the existing “protection and intelligence department within its Judiciary. This decision mirrors a similar one from 13 years ago, when the intelligence department of the Revolutionary Guard was upgraded following mass protests in 2009. The IRGC’s intelligence arm has since been a dominant force in domestic suppression.
This decision comes as Tehran’s media reports that the parliament will soon discuss a bill, proposed over a year ago, to officially upgrade the Judiciary’s intelligence department. This upgrade implies more resources and authority for another tool of repression, especially as the anniversary of the Mahsa protests looms. A lawmaker’s comments from last December suggest that this new organization will also work with entities outside the judiciary, aiming to counteract “propaganda campaigns by the global arrogance” – a term Iran uses for the U.S.
Iran’s clerical regime is notorious for creating parallel bureaucracies, from multiple organizations for Islamic propaganda to maintaining two separate militaries. This approach often arises from internal politics, distributing power and benefits among its factions. In intelligence, this could be a tactic to prevent any single entity from gaining too much power, ensuring the regime’s core remains secure.
Historically, Iran had one primary intelligence agency. Over the years, this expanded with the addition of the IRGC and police intelligence units. Now, the Judiciary’s intelligence arm joins the ranks. Unlike in Western nations, these agencies in Iran don’t have clear, distinct responsibilities. They all monitor citizens, detain dissidents, and are involved in torture and forced confessions. The only clear difference is that some, like the Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC intelligence, have extensive foreign operations.