Iran Guards accuse ‘Zionists’ of assassinating colonel

1. iran
Iranian women lift portraits of Revolutionary Guards colonel Sayyad Khodai during his funeral procession at Imam Hussein square in the capital Tehran on May 24, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
TEHRAN — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Monday accused “Zionists” of shooting dead a colonel in Tehran earlier this month, days after Israel reportedly told the US it was behind the killing, according to AFP. اضافة اعلان

Guards Colonel Sayyad Khodai, 50, was fatally shot on May 22 outside his home in the east of the Iranian capital by assailants on motorcycles. He was hit with five bullets, according to official media.

It was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 murder of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh - an act Tehran blamed on arch-enemy Israel.

Khodai was killed “by the most vicious people, the Zionists, and God willing, we will avenge his death,” head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Major General Hossein Salami said during a visit to his family, according to the Guards’ Sepah News website. The general did not, however, use the term “Zionist regime”, routinely used by the Islamic republic as a direct reference to Israel. “The enemy pursued him (the colonel) from the heart of the White House and Tel Aviv for months and years, door to door and alley to alley to martyr him,” Salami added.

The New York Times reported last week that Israel has told the US that Israel was behind the killing of Khodai. The US daily cited an anonymous “intelligence official briefed on the communications”.

Iran had earlier blamed Khodai’s killing on “elements linked to the global arrogance”, its catch-all term for the US and allies including Israel.

According to the New York Times, Israeli officials claimed Khodai was the deputy commander of a “secret unit within the Quds Force”, involved in “planning plots against foreigners, including Israelis”. The Quds Force is an elite unit of the Guards in charge of external operations.

The source, who spoke to NYT on condition of anonymity, said Israel told US officials the killing was meant as a warning to Iran to halt the operations of this covert group.

Stalled nuclear talks

Iran’s state television has said that Khodai was a member of the Quds Force and that he was “known” in Syria, where Iran has acknowledged deploying “military advisers”. The Guards described Khodai as a “defender of the sanctuary”, a term used for those who work on behalf of Tehran in Syria or Iraq.

On Tuesday, thousands of Iranians attended Khodai’s funeral, before he was buried in the martyrs’ section of Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran.

The colonel’s killing came as negotiations between Iran and world powers to restore a frayed 2015 nuclear deal remain at a standstill, after stalling in March. One of the main sticking points is Tehran’s demand — rejected by Washington — that the Guards be removed from a US terrorism blacklist.

The agreement gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic bomb — something it has always denied wanting to do. But the pact was left on life support after then US president Donald Trump pulled out of it unilaterally in 2018 and reimposed biting economic sanctions on Tehran, prompting Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.

Israel has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal.

Warnings for citizens

Israel on Monday warned its citizens against travel to Turkey, citing Iranian threats of revenge for the assassination of Khodai. Israel’s National Security Council said in a statement that Tehran could be looking to harm Israelis in Turkey and classified it as a “high-risk country”, according to Arab News.

Israel has also raised the security level at its embassies and consulates around the world, fearing a retaliatory Iranian attack.

Israel occused Khodai of plotting attacks against its citizens worldwide. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, which overseas intelligence agency Mossad, said on Sunday that Tehran would “pay the full price” for instigating attacks on Israelis.

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