The United States has imposed major sanctions against Iran. What do Iranian-Americans think? REUTERS

Iran has reportedly detained 12 people whom the local government claims were working undercover for the CIA.

The Iranian establishment believes that those who have been arrested were supposed to keep tabs on the country's military units and also the nuclear installations, according to a report in the Guardian.

A top Iranian official has reportedly told the Irna news agency that the alleged spies were gathering data on Iran's security and military apparatus and also its highly sensitive nuclear programme.

"The main mission of this act of espionage was related to Iran's progress in the fields of nuclear technology and also military and security activities," Parviz Sorouri, a member of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, has been quoted by Irna as saying.

The secret network was busted by a team of officials belonging to Iran's ministry of intelligence, Sorouri has claimed. "The U.S. and Zionist regime's espionage apparatuses were trying to damage Iran both from inside and outside with a heavy blow, using regional intelligence services. Fortunately, with swift reaction by the Iranian intelligence department, the actions failed to bear fruit."

Its nuclear programme has been a bone of contention between Iran and many western governments and even some of the Middle Eastern countries like Israel. Analysts fear that any escalation of the controversial plans will lead to a full-blown oil crisis that may threaten several major economies.