Iran: 2 Aids Researchers Were U.S. Pawns

An Iranian counterespionage official said Monday that two prominent Aids research doctors are among four Iranian nationals accused of colluding with an American plot to try to overthrow the Iranian Government.

Brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei, who gained international recognition for their workwith Aids patients in Iran, were arrested on unspecified security charges in the summer.

Last week, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said four Iranians stood accused of trying to form a network to topple the Islamic Republic from within.

According to the Intelligence Ministry official who spoke Monday, the Alaei brothers were part of a U.S.-funded $75 million plot to stage a "velvet revolution" to topple Iran's ruling regime.

The counterespionage official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to a group of Iranian journalists, claimed $32 million of the money allocated by the Bush administration had already been spent by the Alaei brothers and their accomplices. The other two suspects held in the alleged plot are still unidentified.

The official said U.S. agents based in several locations around the region, including the United Arab Emirates, Baku, Turkey, and Kuwait, were maintaining connections with people from different layers of Iranian society.

He said the four who have been accused were the key playes in the plot and claimed they were consciously involved with U.S. intelligence officers in the region — taking commands and money from them. In addition to the security charges, the four are charged with financial and moral offences.

Iranian authorities claim this network was planning to organize demonstrations and foment civil unrest in Iran by influencing all walks of society, including clerics, university professors, athletes, physicians, and fashion designers.

The counterespionage official implicated a handful of American non-profit groups and think-tanks in the plot, saying the organizations were used to funnel money to the agents inside Iran. Some of the groups allegedly involved are the Woodrow Wilson Center, Irex, and the Soros Center.

The official advised the new U.S. administration not to take the same path as their predecessors. He also warned NGOs that it is not in their interest to be used as a cover for secret actions by U.S. intelligence agencies.