Iran has announced that it thwarted a sophisticated plot to assassinate General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
State media, which first unveiled the news Thursday, alleged Arab and Israeli intelligence agencies were behind the nefarious plans which had been in the making for years. The IRGC's intelligence chief, Hossein Taeb, announced the arrest of three people who had been linked to the plan, described further as seeking to blow up a memorial service Soleimani was scheduled to attend in September, also marking a Muslim holy month.
The assassins reportedly were going to dig under the religious site the Quds force chief was to visit, where explosives would be detonated, with the further hopes of igniting a sectarian civil war, according to Iranian state media.
IRGC sources claimed the perpetrators were preparing 500 kilograms of explosives to use in the attack, as Bloomberg reports, citing the IRGC intelligence chief's account:
Taeb said the plot involved a “team of terrorists” trained in neighboring countries who planned to place as much as 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of explosives in a tunnel beneath a religious shrine built by Soleimani’s late father in Kerman in central Iran.
While naming Israel specifically, the Arab country alleged to also be behind it was not named — though the Iranians no doubt have the Saudis or Emirates, or other GCC Sunni ally of Riyadh in mind.
Regional media has lately reported closer unofficial ties between Saudi and Israeli intelligence, or the Mossad, especially in the context of seeking to ouster Syria's Assad over the past half-decade.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently personally called out the elite Quds force leader - given it is the foreign arm of the IRGC - for expanding Iranian bases inside Syria near Israel's borders.
While the official allegations at first look sound far fetched, it is a reality that Israeli intelligence has over the past years stepped up an aggressive assassination campaign against elite Iranian scientists connected with the country's nuclear program, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas operatives.
In 2018, a widely circulated Arabic media report claimed there is an "American-Israeli agreement" to 'greenlight' the assassination of Gen. Soleimani if the opportunity should present itself.