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Iranian politician says Israel ‘freely runs its operations’ in Tehran

After series of attacks attributed to Israel, unnamed officials suggest ‘the highest levels of the Iranian establishment’ are shaken

Relatives mourn over the flag draped coffin of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Relatives mourn over the flag draped coffin of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian politician indicated that many in his country feel Israel is operating freely in Tehran and targeting security operations with ease.

In a report published Tuesday in the UK-based Financial Times, an official cited only as a “reformist politician” was quoted as saying that “it feels as if Israel has established a large-scale organization in Tehran and freely runs its operations.”

The politician added: “Israel is clearly targeting Iran’s ‘highly secure’ image to tarnish its greatness in people’s eyes.”

A series of assassinations and attacks in Iran have been attributed to Israel in recent months, though Jerusalem rarely if ever publicly takes credit for such operations. But in a rare interview last week — and rarer yet comments on Israeli activity in enemy countries — National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata said Israel had “acted quite a lot in Iran over the past year.”

Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified in recent months, after the assassination of a top Iranian officer in Tehran, a number of other mysterious deaths of security personnel inside Iran, airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, threatening rhetoric from Iranian leaders and Iran’s increasing violation of nuclear agreements.

The most serious blow to Tehran came in May, when Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, 50, was killed outside his home in the east of the Iranian capital by attackers on motorbikes who shot him five times.

Family members of Col. Hassan Sayad Khodaei weep over his body at his car after he was shot by two assailants in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2022. (Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA via AP)

Then last month, Colonel Ali Esmailzadeh, a commander of the IRGC’s external operations unit, the Quds Force, died “in an accident in his home,” according to state news agency IRNA. Shortly afterward, Ali Kamani, a member of the Guard’s aerospace division, was killed while on a mission in Khomein in the central province of Markazi, the IRGC said.

The Financial Times report noted a feeling of “anxiety at the highest levels of the Iranian establishment” over the series of Israeli-attributed attacks. In late June, the IRGC replaced its longtime intelligence chief in a move seen by many as a reaction to the suspected assassinations.

Nevertheless, Iranian officials told the UK newspaper that they are not looking to directly escalate tensions at the moment.

“Iran’s policy remains to work with its proxy forces and we will not initiate any attacks against Israel if Israel doesn’t attack Lebanon,” a “regime insider” was quoted as saying. “It’s not wise for us to fight with Israel. And Zionists also show teeth to attack but their teeth are not sharp enough to go as far as striking Iran.”

In a similar report in The New York Times late last month, Iranian officials told the newspaper that Israel’s operations have had drastic and long-lasting effects.

“The security breaches inside Iran and the vast scope of operations by Israel have really undermined our most powerful intelligence organization,” said former Iranian vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

Unnamed Iranian officials also said at the time that “Israel’s spy network has infiltrated deep into the rank and file of Iran’s security circles.”

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