Iran said Monday it has arrested 17 Iranian nationals allegedly recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on the country’s sensitive nuclear and military sites, adding that some of them have already been sentenced to death.
The arrests took place over the past several months, the Iranian government claimed in a press conference.
Iran also said none of the 17 had succeeded in their sabotage missions. Their alleged missions included collecting information on the facilities where they worked.
President Donald Trump tweeted that the claim had “zero truth,” calling Iran a “total mess.”
“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!” he tweeted.
Iran’s government Fars News Press tweeted out photos of the alleged spies.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former CIA director, declined on Monday to address specifics of the arrests. But he added that “the Iranian regime has a long history of lying.”
Pompeo pointed to differences between the US and Iranian accounts of the location of an unmanned US drone the Iranians shot down in June, among other incidents.
“I think everyone should take with a grain of salt everything that the Islamic Republic of Iran asserts today,” he said. “They have 40 years of history of them lying, so we should all be cautious reporting things that the Iranian leadership tells us.”
Pompeo, speaking to The Associated Press over the phone, said the world is “watching the Iranian regime understand that they’ve got a real challenge, that America and the world understand that they are a rogue regime conducting terror campaigns.”
Last April, Iran claimed it had discovered 290 CIA spies both inside the Islamic Republic and outside the country in past years.