Israeli defense and intelligence officials have owned up to the brazen assassination of a senior Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer, which took place in Tehran on Sunday. A pair of unidentified gunmen drove up to IRGC Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei as he sat in his car outside his home. The Quds Force colonel was shot five times, and his death was quickly blamed on Israeli intelligence given prior similar killings.
The NY Times days later reported that "The Israelis told the Americans the killing was meant as a warning to Iran to halt the operations of a covert group within the Quds Force known as Unit 840, according to the intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information."
It described, "Unit 840 is tasked with abductions and assassinations of foreigners around the world, including Israeli civilians and officials, according to Israeli government, military and intelligence officials." Col. Khadaei was reportedly the deputy head of the covert unit.
The Israelis didn't comment for the story, however the Times stressed "But according to an intelligence official briefed on the communications, Israel has informed American officials that it was behind the killing."
The Israeli government is now said to be infuriated by the leak and are calling for an internal US intelligence investigation. Knesset member Ram Ben Barak, who heads the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said "It mainly harms trust."
"We have very many close relationships and a lot of cooperation between us, which all depend on trust, and when it is violated in some way then it damages future cooperation," he said in an Israeli radio interview Thursday. "I hope the Americans investigate the leak and figure out where it came from and why it occurred."
There's currently speculation that the assassination was intended to highlight Iranian covert efforts to kill Israeli officials and civilians, something which Tehran has rejected. The timing, some pundits have said, was meant to further disrupt the stalled nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers in Vienna. A separate follow-up Thursday report in The Wall Street Journal suggests the slain Quds Force colonel was part of Iranian efforts to take out an Israeli diplomat, however this cannot be confirmed.
Iranian IRGC colonel assassinated in downtown Tehranhttps://t.co/X0HAADGqut— The Cradle (@TheCradleMedia) May 22, 2022
"An Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer shot and killed outside his Tehran home led the group’s efforts to assassinate opponents of Iran around the world, including recent failed plots to kill an Israeli diplomat, an American general and a French intellectual, according to people familiar with the matter," WSJ writes citing anonymous sources.
President Ibrahim Raisi had vowed in a Monday speech revenge on Israel, after semi-official ISNA news agency claimed that the Guards uncovered and arrested spies backed by Israeli intelligence. The reports were not commented on by Israel. "The thugs and terrorist groups affiliated with global oppression and Zionism will face consequences for their actions," Raisi had said.
The assassination is being widely viewed as the biggest foreign sponsored attack inside Iran since the killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020. Israel was widely acknowledged as behind that killing which also took place in a Tehran suburb.