NYT: Israel Informed U.S. It Was Behind Assassination of Iranian Colonel

A picture of Colonel Sayad Khodaei, a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards, is seen at his funeral ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday. (Majid Asgaripour/WANA [West Asia News Agency] via REUTERS)

An intelligence source said that Israel had informed the United States that it was behind the assassination of a senior Iranian officer in Tehran earlier this week, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

On Sunday, two assailants on a motorcycle fired five rounds at Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei — a member of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — as he was sitting in his car outside his home in the heart of the Iranian capital.

Khodaei was linked to several attacks against Israelis in Asia, Europe and Africa.

The Israeli defense establishment was surprised and outraged by the report, and security sources said they seek clarifications from Washington on the leak, which they said absolved the United States of any responsibility for the operation.

“It mainly harms trust,” MK Ram Ben Barak, who heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said during an interview Thursday morning on Israel’s 103FM radio station.

“We have very many close relationships and a lot of cooperation between us, which all depend on trust, and when it is violated in some way then it damages future cooperation,” he added. “I hope the Americans investigate the leak and figure out where it came from and why it occurred.”

“By the way, this isn’t the first time — the story of the bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor was leaked to an American journalist,” he said, referring to the September 2007 Israeli airstrike on the Al Kibar nuclear reactor in Syria. Subsequently, the Times published a series of articles based on information attributed to anonymous U.S. intelligence sources.

Regarding the report itself, Ben Barak, a former deputy chief of the Mossad, said that at Israeli officials did tell their American counterparts that they were responsible for the killing Khodaei.

“As far as I know, we did not inform anyone or take responsibility, and that is for the best,” he said.

The defense establishment was surprised and outraged by the report, and security sources said they seek clarifications from Washington on the leak, which they said absolved the United States of any responsibility for the operation.

The defense establishment is closely monitoring Tehran’s official threats after the assassination and is concerned that the report will drag unwanted attention to Israeli targets.

According to the Times, Yerushalayim informed Washington that Khodaei’s assassination was a shot across the bow for the Iranians to cease the operations of the shadowy Unit 840 of its Quds Force, which Israeli sources say is tasked with abductions and assassinations of foreigners around the world, including Israeli civilians and officials.

Israeli officials said Khodaei was the deputy commander of Unit 840, and was involved in planning cross-border plots against foreigners, including Israelis.

They said that he was in charge of the unit’s operations in the Middle East and countries neighboring Iran and had been involved over the past two years in attempted terrorist attacks against Israelis, Europeans and American civilians and government officials in Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.

Iran has never acknowledged the existence of Unit 840.

However, two sources linked to the IRGC portrayed the assassinated commander as a logistics expert who played a crucial role in the transfer of drone and missile technology to Syria and Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. They also said Khodaei served as an adviser to pro-Iranian militias in Syria, which receive training and weapons from the Islamic Republic.

Iranian officials have blamed “global arrogance,” which is code for the United States and Israel, for the killing of Khodaei, whose funeral procession snaked through the main Tehran cemetery as mourners shouted anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans.

A prominent poster hailed Khodaei as a martyr along with Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020 in Iraq, and featured tattered Israeli, American and British flags.
“Iran is a victim of terrorism,” the banner declared, overlaid with the logos of the Mossad and Central Intelligence Agency.

Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami as well as Gen. Esmail Ghaani, leader of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force, attended the funeral.

Ghaani also offered condolences at Khodaei’s home on Monday night. Iran’s nuclear negotiator visited the scene, underscoring the government’s shock. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi vowed revenge. A street in Tehran has already been named after the colonel.

The manner of the slaying evoked previous targeted attacks by Israel in Iran. In November 2020, a top Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was killed while traveling in a car outside Tehran.

Meanwhile, an engineer died and another employee was injured after an accident on Wednesday in a research center at the Parchin military site affiliated with Iran’s Defense Ministry, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Thursday.

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