Fears of Iran-Israel escalation after assassination of Revolutionary Guard officer

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The brazen daylight assassination of an Iranian military officer in Tehran a week ago has prompted calls for revenge and shined a spotlight on the ongoing shadow war being fought between the Islamic Republic and Israel.

Col Hassan Sayyad Khodai was an officer in the Revolutionary Guard corps involved in operations abroad, including Syria and possibly elsewhere. He was shot dead by gunmen on a motorcycle on Sunday afternoon at around 4pm. He was returning from work in his car and had just approached his home in east-central Tehran when the killers fired five rounds at him, state media reported.

A photograph showed him in bloodied civilian clothes, slumped over in the driver-side seat of white sedan with its left-window shattered. His funeral was scheduled for Monday.

Iranian officials and state media outlets pinned the killing on “global arrogance”, a reference to the United States and its allies, without naming any country.

“I call on security officials to seriously investigate the crime,” Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi said in Tehran before departing for talks with senior officials in Oman. “I have no doubt that revenge on criminals for the pure blood of this honourable martyr is inevitable.”

Israeli media outlets have strongly suggested that Israel was behind the attack, and Israeli authorities on Monday cautioned their diplomatic outposts abroad to prepare for possible retaliation.

The news platform Nour, which is close to Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council, described the killing as a “miscalculated crossing of a red line that will change many calculations” in a cryptic tweet.

The killing had all the hallmarks of an espionage thriller, suggesting deep foreign intelligence penetration deep inside Iran. The successful assassination in the heart of the Iranian capital constitutes yet another embarrassing security and intelligence failure for the country, which aggressively locks up dissidents and dual nations on flimsy espionage charges.

The killing follows the 27 November 2020, assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, another daylight killing in Iran allegedly carried out by Israel and local operatives, as well as several 2021 sabotage operations targeting Iran’s nuclear technology and missile programmes.

While Fakhrizadeh was long a person of interest to western intelligence agencies and international nuclear inspectors seeking answers about Iran’s atomic technology programme, Khodai is an unknown figure. In a Middle East intelligence and security realm that resembles a house of mirrors, little is known about what Khodai did for a living and why he was killed.

Read more via The Independent

Photo – Women hold pictures of slain Colonel of Iranian Quds Force Hossein Sayad Khodaie during his funeral in Tehran, Iran, 24 May 2022. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

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