08 January 2019

In a recent article for The Global Post, the Intelligence Studies Project's Research Fellow Dr. Kiril Avramov analyzes Iranian influence operations and “stealth presence” in the Balkans. “Under the Radar: Iran’s ‘Stealth’ Presence on the Balkans” suggests that Iran’s quiet presence on the Balkans is not simply about strengthening political ties, expanding business interests, and facilitating trade. Rather, Tehran’s operations take advantage of the region’s lax security, weak institutions, corruption, and the absence of global intelligence or security agencies, successfully turning the Balkans into a logistical hub and geopolitical bridge to Central and Western Europe.

Avramov asserts that the Iranian presence has been cultivated, quietly and steadily, for thirty years. Iranian influence operations on the Balkans are carried out both by embassy officials and, increasingly, Hezbollah agents. Tehran’s tact on the Balkans differs from its behavior across Europe more broadly. While Tehran has conducted visible, sharp operations in countries such as France, Germany, and Austria, its presence in countries like Bulgaria goes relatively unnoticed. Despite this difference, Iran’s stealth presence on the Balkans successfully serves Tehran’s geopolitical goals and poses a substantial regional threat.