In the summer of 2021, officers from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service showed up at the Vancouver home of Ramin Seyed Emami, an Iranian Canadian musician and performer who hosts a popular Persian-language podcast.
Seyed Emami often features guests from inside Iran and delves into topics that are taboo in conservative Iranian culture, such as sex, mental health and losing religious faith.
One of the officers explained that the government of Iran had developed a list of people living abroad whom it deemed a threat to the regime, Seyed Emami said in an interview. The officer didn’t say whether the 41-year-old podcaster’s name was on it, but the implication was clear, and he was told to take security precautions.
The Iranian government has stepped up its efforts to kidnap and kill government officials, activists and journalists around the world, including in the United States, according to government documents and interviews with 15 officials in Washington, Europe and the Middle East, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
Tehran has targeted former senior U.S. government officials; dissidents who have fled the country for the United States, Britain, Canada, Turkey and Europe; media organizations critical of the regime; and Jewish civilians or those with links to Israel, according to the officials and government documents.
Iran’s intelligence and security services rely largely on proxies to carry out their plans, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to jewel thieves, drug dealers and other criminals in murder-for-hire schemes, the officials said. That hands-off approach probably caused some operations to fail, the officials said, as plots have been disrupted — and, in some cases, the hired hit men appear to have gotten cold feet and never carried out their orders.
But officials say Iran’s persistence makes it likely to eventually carry out the killing of a high-profile dissident, journalist or Western government figure, and that could spark direct confrontation with Tehran. [Continue reading…]