Albania is another Balkan nation in which Iran has sought to establish a foothold, following the pattern of establishing charities and cultural organizations that double as MOIS and IRGC intelligence fronts. The Saadi Sirazi Cultural Institution is the primary Iranian organization in Albania, and it supports the activities of the other Iranian NGOs in country, disseminates Khomeinst religious and political propaganda, and organizes pro-Iran conferences. The institution is financed by the Iranian regime through the Islamic Cultural and Relationship Organization, which is the external arm of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Al-Mustafa International University operates two branches in Albania. An affiliated charity, the Kuran Foundation, targets working class Albanians in need of financial assistance in order to entice them to attend and helps foot the bill for Al-Mustafa graduate students to study in Iran. Saadi College, an all-female high school, is also engaged in the propagation of Khomeinist ideology.
Despite Iran’s efforts to cultivate ideological influence, Albania, a NATO member, remains generally hostile to Iran, particularly among its political and security elites. This hostility manifested in a 2013 decision, at the Obama administration’s urging, to offer asylum to up to 2000 Iranian MEK dissidents. In response to the MEK presence, Iranian media outlets began publishing articles in Albanian meant to discredit the MEK. In May 2017, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) announced the launch of a 24-hour Balkan Network featuring Bosniak and Albanian language programming meant both to propagate the Iranian regime’s religious and geopolitical worldview, and to influence public opinion against the MEK.
According to the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Terrorism for 2019, Albania faces a terrorism threat from Iran’s plotting against the resettled Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen -e-Khalq (MEK). Furthermore, on October 23, 2019, the Albanian State Police announced it had foiled attacks planned in 2018 by Iranian agents against MEK members living in Albania.