Iran purges Revolutionary Guards amid fears it has been infiltrated by Israeli spies

·3-min read
Iran's Revolutionary Guards
Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Iran’s leadership is purging its powerful Revolutionary Guards after a month of chaos for the regime amid fears it has been infiltrated by Israeli spies.

A senior general in the Guards has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Jewish state, it emerged this week, while last week Tehran sacked its fearsome intelligence chief Hossein Taeb.

Mr Taeb, 59, was dismissed in the wake of three major embarrassments for the Iranian intelligence services, which Israeli security officials claim have left the regime “shocked and rattled”.

The first was a botched alleged attempt by Iran to carry out a series of revenge attacks on Israeli citizens in Turkey. Israel had publicly raised the alarm about the plot and ordered its citizens to flee the country after warning of an imminent attack. During the same period, Turkey arrested several people who were allegedly working for Iranian spy cells.

The second case, at the end of May, saw Israel publish a series of intercepted Iranian documents online, including details about its nuclear programme, which the Jewish state regards as an existential threat.

Thirdly, Iran suspects that Israel assassinated two of its nuclear scientists by sending agents to poison their food at dinner parties before vanishing. The plot was reminiscent of the Israeli TV show “Tehran”, in which Mossad agents carry out daring attacks on Iranian targets while deep undercover.

Iran’s leadership is purging its powerful Revolutionary Guards after a month of chaos for the regime
Iran’s leadership is purging its powerful Revolutionary Guards after a month of chaos for the regime

Speaking to The Telegraph, Israeli officials said the string of events were part of a new tactic to undermine Iranian intelligence known as the “Octopus doctrine”.

The doctrine compares Iran’s leadership to the head of an octopus while its tentacles are the various Iranian proxy groups spread across the Middle East, notably in Syria and Lebanon.

In recent weeks, The Telegraph understands Israel has shifted from striking the tentacles and is now going straight for the head.

“The Iranians saw all of that information released by Israel as a huge slap in the face. And they were shocked. They were rattled by it,” an Israeli security official told The Telegraph.

“[Ex-] prime minister [Naftali] Bennett’s Octopus doctrine has proven to be effective. It has caused shockwaves throughout the leadership of Iran,” they added.

Iran analysts say that Mr Taeb, the sacked Revolutionary Guard intelligence chief, was one of the most powerful men in Iran and had a close relationship with the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. More reshuffling of senior commanders in Iran is now expected as the regime launches a molehunt for more Mossad spies, analysts say.

“His unceremonious sacking heralds more political purges within the regime as it faces growing domestic discontent and challenges to its regional policy,” said Dr Reza Taghizade, a London-based Iran observer.

Iranian spies referred to Mr Taeb as “The Judge" because he oversaw the interrogation and torture of prisoners, according to Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Iran affairs analyst and former hostage of the regime.

‘Ideological and religious affiliation’

In a sign that Iran fears its intelligence services are compromised, Mr Taeb has reportedly been replaced by Mohammad Kazemi, the former head of the Guards’ Intelligence Protection unit, which oversaw internal surveillance.

“Most theories for Taeb's removal are due to IRGC Intel's inability to prevent Israel from operating inside Iran's borders, including conducting high-profile assassinations,” said Dr Moore-Gilbert.

“The IRGC Intelligence Organisation is not a professional intelligence agency, its members are recruited on the basis of ideological and religious affiliation, and everything is kept ‘in the family’ - you have to have contacts and already know people on the inside in order to get a foot in the door,” she added.

“As a result, many of its operatives are incompetent and poorly skilled for the job. Many of them lack a security mindset or a proper understanding of the conduct of espionage.”

The Telegraph approached Iranian authorities for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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