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IRGC replaces intelligence chief following killings, Israeli accusations

Hossein Taeb removed from post week after reports in Israel identify him as Iranian official behind recent attack plans in Turkey

Hossein Taeb, former head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), looks on during a meeting in Tehran on June 24, 2018. (Hamed Malekpour/Tasnim News/AFP)
Hossein Taeb, former head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), looks on during a meeting in Tehran on June 24, 2018. (Hamed Malekpour/Tasnim News/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps replaced its longtime intelligence chief, the militia announced Thursday, following a number of high-profile killings blamed on Israel and amid reports of a foiled Iranian revenge attack in Turkey.

Hossein Taeb, who had held the position for more than 12 years, was replaced by General Mohammad Kazemi, the Guards said in a statement.

“The Guards’ chief Major General Hossein Salami appointed General Mohammad Kazemi as the new head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization,” IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif said in the statement.

Taeb, who is a cleric, was appointed as adviser to Salami, according to the statement.

The replacement of the intelligence chief comes after the killing of a number of members of the IRGC, which is designated as a terrorist group by Iran’s arch-enemy, the United States.

It also comes after Taeb was identified by Hebrew media last week as the Iranian official behind planned attacks on Israelis in Turkey. The reports, which were unsourced but likely based on comments by Israeli security officials, said that Taeb was under intense pressure to carry out an attack, amid growing frustration in Iran over repeated Israeli successes in penetrating Iran’s most secret organizations.

Iran and US ally Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war but tensions have ratcheted up following a string of high-profile incidents Tehran has blamed on the Jewish state.

On June 13, 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 in a statement without elaborating.

Earlier in June, 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.

And on May 22, Guards Colonel 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.

State television in Iran said Khodaei was a member of the Quds Force and that he was “known” in Syria, where Iran has acknowledged deploying “military advisers.”

The IRGC described Khodaei as a “defender of the sanctuary,” a term used for those who work on behalf of the Islamic Republic in Syria or Iraq.

The IRGC accused “Zionists” of being behind the assassination and vowed revenge.

Israel last week urged its citizens to leave Turkey immediately because of “possible” threats from Iranian operatives.

Media outlets in Turkey on Thursday reported the arrest of eight people allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell that planned to kill Israeli tourists in Istanbul.

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