Iranian officials believe Israel has deeply infiltrated and drastically broken down the Islamic Republic’s intelligence operations inside and outside the country in the past months. According to reports published online, the growing levels of distrust in Iran have led to the ousting of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence chief and the arrest of a senior commander accused of spying for Israel.
Those with close ties to the Islamic regime, like former Vice President of Iran, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, said in recent interviews that Israeli operations have seriously damaged mutual trust within the country’s security and significantly undermined Iran’s intelligence organization. Abtahi and many other former and current Iranian officials stated that the strength of Iran’s security, which has been the foundation of the Islamic Republic, has eroded significantly in the past year. Other Iranian officials also noted that Israel’s spy network has not only infiltrated Iran’s security circles but increased attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Iranian leaders are angry at being outmaneuvered by Israel, which has penetrated their security on many levels. They are also embarrassed by the incompetence of their own officials and dismayed by potential turncoats inside the Iranian regime that may be working with Israel,” explained Jim Philips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy. “The sacking of the IRGC intelligence chief shows that the system is under tremendous stress,” according to Philips.
In response to the increased paranoia inside the Islamic regime, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iran President Ebrahim Raisi have fired and replaced government officials like the intelligence chief of the IRGC, Hossein Taeb. Taeb was a trusted ally of the Supreme Leader, and before his appointment in the Revolutionary Guards, he was famous for his role in brutally suppressing protesters in Iran. The removal of Taeb, who held the position of intelligence chief of the IRGC for 12 years, resulted from the recent high-profile killings of regime officials, the foiled Iranian attacks on Israelis in Turkey, and his inability to expose Israel’s spy network in Iran.
Iranian officials also noted that Taeb’s ouster had been voiced by many in the government due to increasing distrust among top-level Iranian officials after the arrest of IRGC Brigadier General Ali Nasisir on the charges that he spied for Israel. Both Iranian and Israeli officials familiar with General’s case stated that he was placed in custody along with several Iranian Defense Ministry employees for allegedly leaking classified materials to Israel in early June.
The arrest of IRGC officials like Ali Nasir and the concerns of Hossein Taeb continue to rattle top and low-level Islamic officials in the government, who fear that they might be arrested or replaced out of paranoia from their superiors. Many experts and foreign policy analysts familiar with the Islamic Republic argue that the erosion of internal trust within the regime helps the Jewish State and anti-Islamic regime protesters and movements.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel have engaged in a decades-long shadow war since the regime announced its plans to destroy Israel. Tensions have increased over the years between the two countries, with Israel focusing on Iranian officials involved with Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist activities. In recent weeks, several numbers of IRGC officials, scientists, and engineers have mysteriously died inside and outside Iran, with Iran pointing the finger at Israel and the United States.
“I doubt that there are very many inside the regime, but a few well-placed agents can do a lot of damage. Israel is probably working more with elements of Iran’s opposition outside the regime,” said Philips.
The most recent killings resulted in the deaths of IRGC aerospace engineer Ali Kamani, Quds Force Colonel Ali Esmalizadeh, and IRGC Colonel Hasan Sayyad Kohdaei, individuals who supported terrorist attacks against Israeli and U.S. interests in the past. Additionally, the protests from ordinary Iranian citizens occurring currently in Iran and for the past few years have been an opportune time for many regime officials to blame Israel for the anti-regime movements.
Given internal and external turmoil in Iran, Philips argues that the U.S. and Israel could “expose corruption and crimes by high-ranking officials to amplify distrust and stoke regime paranoia. Such actions, however, would be preferable if such exposure came from Iranian rather than foreign sources.”