Israel's 'Relentless Campaign' Against Iran Culminated With Discharge of Powerful Intel Chief, NYT Reports

'The security breaches inside Iran and the vast scope of operations by Israel have really undermined our most powerful intelligence organization,' a former Iranian official tells the New York Times

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Hossein Taeb, Iranian Shia cleric and former head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018.
Hossein Taeb, Iranian Shia cleric and former head of the intelligence apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018.Credit: HAMED MALEKPOUR - AFP

The recent ouster of the Revolutionary Guards Corp's Intelligence Service chief, one of the most powerful men in Tehran, came as the result of “a relentless campaign by Israel to undermine Iran’s security by targeting its officials and military sites,” the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Last week, Iranian state media reported that Hossein Taeb had been pushed out of his long-time position and demoted to an advisory role only hours after Turkish police announced that they had detained Iranian citizens in Istanbul under suspicion of plotting attacks against Israeli diplomats and tour groups.

Galata Tower and Ayasofya-i Kebir Camii or Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque are seen during a sunset in Istanbul on Tuesday.Credit: UMIT BEKTAS/ REUTERS

An anonymous Israeli intelligence official told the Times that Jerusalem had provided Ankara with information showing Taeb’s culpability for the foiled attack.

While no clear reason was given for his dismissal, Taeb was under pressure from within the Revolutionary Guards due to his failures to prevent a series of attacks targeting nuclear scientists within Iran in recent weeks.

The diplomatic fallout from the Turkey operation “tipped the balance” against Taeb – a former commander of the paramilitary Basij organization who had been promoted to head the Revolutionary Guards Corp's Intelligence Service in 2009 – the Times reported, citing unnamed Israeli intelligence officials.

His dismissal was also influenced by a “growing climate of mistrust within the Iranian leadership” caused by the recent arrests of Iranians working on the country’s missile program as well as Brig. Gen. Ali Nasiri, a senior Corp commander accused of spying for Jerusalem, the report added, citing an Iranian source with knowledge of the matter.

“The security breaches inside Iran and the vast scope of operations by Israel have really undermined our most powerful intelligence organization,” former Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi told the Times. “The strength of our security has always been the bedrock of the Islamic Republic and it has been damaged in the past year.”

Israel has reportedly increased its attacks on Iranian nuclear sites and scientists of late. Last month, a senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Sayyad Khodaei, was assassinated in Tehran, and other reported assassinations of military figures and scientists involved in weapons programs followed. Khodaei was likely behind a series of plots against Israeli businesspeople and diplomats in various countries this year. Tehran vowed to avenge Khodaei's death, which the Islamic republic had attributed to Israel.

A suspected cyberattack against one of the largest steel plants in Iran was reported by a state-linked news agency on Monday while last week sirens sounded in parts of Jerusalem and Eilat due to a cyberattack on local public address systems, according to Israel's Home Front Command. It is being investigated as a possible Iranian attack.

Two weeks ago, Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point Software Technologies announced that Iranian hackers managed to take control of email accounts of senior Israeli figures and impersonated them.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett predicted a significant widening of the role of cyberwar. “Today you can get stuff done hitting your enemy through cyber, which in the past would require to covertly send 50-100 commando soldiers behind enemy lines with huge risk, and now you can get a bunch of smart folks sitting behind a keyboard with the same effect, which is why inevitably cyber is going to become one of the most prominent dimensions of future warfare. It just makes sense,” he said speaking at Tel Aviv University’s annual Cyber Week.

Likely responding to media reports of recent Israeli strikes against targets within Iran, Bennett, who recently threatened to attack “the head of the octopus,” not just its arms, said that Israel is “doing pretty well on the defensive side.”



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