Jun 23, 2022 - World

Iran dismisses IRGC intel chief amid suspicious deaths of Iranian officers

Hossein Taeb, Iranian Shia cleric and head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),

Hossein Taeb in 2018. Photo: Hamed Malekpour/Tasim News/AFP via Getty Images

The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' intelligence organization has been dismissed from his post, the IRGC announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Hossein Taeb was one of the most senior and powerful intelligence officials in Iran.

  • His dismissal comes amid a series of suspicious assassinations of Iranian military officers and scientists, as well as operations to sabotage Iranian nuclear facilities and drone and missile bases.
  • Iran has officially accused the Israeli Mossad of being behind some of these attacks and threatened to take revenge. Israel hasn't claimed responsibility, but hasn't denied involvement.

What they're saying: In an official statement, the IRGC spokesperson said Taeb was replaced by the order of Gen. Hussein Salami, the IRGC commander in chief.

  • Gen. Mohammad Kazemi, who headed the IRGC counterintelligence unit, was appointed as the new head of the IRGC intelligence service.
  • The spokesperson added that Taeb has been appointed as Salami’s adviser.

Behind the scenes: Last Friday, a spokesperson for the Mossad briefed reporters that the Iranian leadership is unhappy with Taeb and was considering whether to dismiss him as the IRGC intelligence chief because his organization hasn't been able to stop the attacks inside Iran and has also failed in retaliating against Israel outside of Iran.

The big picture: Two weeks ago, Israeli intelligence issued its strongest-possible warning against travel to Turkey, where Israel is most concerned Iran will target Israelis abroad.

  • On Thursday, shortly before the announcement regarding Taeb's dismissal, the Turkish press reported for the first time about an alleged Iranian terror plot against Israelis in Turkey.
  • According to the reports, the Turkish intelligence service and police on June 17 in Istanbul arrested 10 members of an alleged Iranian spy ring that included both Iranians and local collaborators and planned to kidnap and attack Israeli diplomats and tourist groups in Istanbul.
  • One of the targets was a former Israeli ambassador and his wife who were staying at a hotel in Istanbul, according to the reports. The Mossad evacuated the couple back to Tel Aviv on a private plane.

A senior Israeli security official told Axios Israel was notified ahead of the publication of the Turkish press reports about the arrest.

  • The official said the arrests in Turkey were the result of close cooperation between Israeli and Turkish security and intelligence services. “The Turkish government deserves a lot of credit for this," the Israeli official said.
  • “We are on the right track and this could be the beginning of the end but it isn’t over yet. We haven’t eliminated the threat completely. We aren’t lifting the travel warning yet," the official said.

What they're saying: The reports were publish in the Turkish press as Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was about to depart for a trip to Ankara that is focused on the Iranian threats.

  • In a joint press conference in Ankara with Lapid, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: “We won’t allow such terror attacks against Israelis to take place in our country and the due messages necessary were already given (to Iran)."
  • Lapid added: “Iran is behind these attempted terrorist attacks. The intelligence leaves no doubt about it. This is a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty by Iranian terror. We are confident that Turkey knows how to respond to the Iranians on this matter. For its part, Israel won’t sit idly-by when there are attempts to harm its citizens in Israel and around the world."
  • Lapid in Ankara also met with Hakan Fidan, the director of the Turkish intelligence service, and discussed the joint efforts to thwart Iranian attacks against Israelis in Turkey, an Israeli official said.
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