Revolutionary Guards officer assassination threatens Iran-Israel escalation

The blatant daylight assassination of an Iranian military officer in Tehran has called for revenge and has shed light on the ongoing shadow war between the Islamic Republic and Israel.

Colonel Hassan Sayad Kodai was an officer in the Revolutionary Guards units involved in overseas operations, including in Syria and possibly elsewhere. He was shot and killed by armed men on a motorcycle on Sunday around 4pm. He was just approaching his home in eastern Tehran on his way home from work in the car, and the killers fired five shots at him, state media reported.

The photo shows him in bloody civilian attire sitting in the driver’s seat of the white sedan and his left window shattered. His funeral was scheduled for Monday.

Iranian officials and state media committed the murder in “global arrogance”, referring to the United States and its allies without revealing the country’s name.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raishi said in Tehran, “I urge the security authorities to seriously investigate the crime.

Israeli media strongly suggested that Israel was behind the attack, and Israeli authorities warned on Monday that foreign diplomatic outposts should be prepared for possible reprisals.

Noor, a news platform close to Iran’s powerful National Security Council (NSC), described the killing in a secret tweet as “miscalculating the red line, which will change many calculations.”

“The perpetrators of this crime will pay a harsh price,” he said.

Iranian MP Mojtaba Zolnouri, chairman of the National Security Council of the National Assembly, said that “murder has no special operational value” because the Hodai do not have special security protections.

But the murder had all the hallmarks of an espionage thriller, suggesting that foreign intelligence had penetrated deep inside Iran. A successful assassination in the heart of the Iranian capital constitutes another embarrassing security and intelligence failure for the country, aggressively imprisoning dissidents and the dual state on charges of weak espionage.

“Whoever did this had the operational intelligence and ability to execute and possibly escape.” Retired Israeli Brigadier General Asaf Orion, now a Reuben International Fellow at the Institute for Near Eastern Policy in Washington, and a senior fellow at the National Security Institute, said. In an interview in Tel Aviv, he said, “On the one hand, it speaks about the capabilities of the attackers, but on the other hand it shows Iran’s vulnerability”.

The killings target the November 27, 2020 assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, another daylight killing in Iran believed to have been committed by Israel and local agents, and Iran’s nuclear technology and missile programs. It follows several sabotage operations in 2021.

While Fakhrizadeh has been the focus of Western intelligence and international nuclear inspectors looking for answers to Iran’s nuclear technology program, Khodai remains unknown. Little is known about what Khodai did and why he was murdered in the Middle East’s intelligence and security realm, such as the House of Mirrors.

Iranian media have identified Kodai as one of the “guardians of the shrine,” referring to those who fought against popular armed rebels on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

Few ordinary Iranian soldiers have served in Syria. Khodai’s rank and Syrian deployment suggest that he is a member of the Quds Force, an overseas branch of the Revolutionary Guards suspected of being behind overseas assassination operations and cooperation with armed allies across the Middle East and South Asia.

Some media outlets cited intelligence officials claiming that Khodai was involved in the targeting of prominent Israelis abroad, particularly in operations to lure Israeli citizens in Cyprus, Colombia, Kenya and Turkey. Recently, the Israeli Consulate General in Istanbul and an Israeli-Turkish businessman have been targeted in an assassination plot.

“Assuming what you read in the report is correct, it is possible that his occupation was in the Quds Force and was involved in conducting terrorist attacks on Israel abroad,” Orion said. “If that’s true, he’s a terrorist. This would have been a preventative counter-terrorism operation to prevent further operations from taking place.”

However, Israeli media, including state-owned Channel 13, suggested that Kodai was involved in Iran’s missile and drone programs and oversaw the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

None of the Israeli media has identified the source.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raishi makes a statement before leaving Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport for a visit.

(President of Iran/AFP via Getty)

In Iran, the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Information Security have announced a joint operation to arrest an unspecified number of operatives suspected of colluding with Israel.

In a statement published in state media, authorities charged those detained with “robbery and destruction of private and public property, kidnapping and fabricated coercion of confessions.”

Khodai’s killing and arrest came amid a new wave of small-scale protests across the country against rising food prices after the government announced plans to cut subsidies and increase cash payments to the poor.

Iran and the United States are now spearheading indirect talks to restore the collapsed 2015 nuclear agreement that was supposed to curb Iran’s nuclear technology program in exchange for lifting sanctions. The meeting was hampered by Washington’s refusal to withdraw its designation of the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

Leave a Comment