Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has appointed a new IRGC intelligence security chief following a series of similar high-level changes last week.
Defa Press, the news agency of Iran’s Armed Forces, reported Monday that Brigadier General Majid Khademi, head of the Defense Ministry’s Intelligence Security, has been appointed by the Supreme Leader to succeed Mohammad Kazemi as the new chief of the IRGC Intelligence Organization’s information security (SAS InfoSec).
Kazemi replaced the controversial cleric Hossein Ta’eb as chief of the IRGC Intelligence Organization (SAS).
The SAS IntelSec is responsible for protecting the IRGC against espionage, infiltration by undesirable political fractions, leakage of secret information to the outside as well as political and security monitoring of the forces’ commanders and the staff. The organization is directly accountable to the Supreme Leader and works under his supervision.
Ta’eb’s replacement after 13 years at the helm of SAS which was announced on Thursday came as a big surprise and fueled many speculations about the reasons for his dismissal.
The change considered to be a pivotal move by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei came after a series of unexplained deadly attacks against IRGC officers and other breaches of security in Iran’s nuclear and military installations.
On June 19, following Ta’eb’s recent threats against Israelis, the Israeli Prime Minister Naphtali Bennet said that Israel would continue to strike those who send terrorists to attack Israelis in various overseas locations. “Our new rule is: Whoever sends – pays,” he said. This has been interpreted as a direct threat against the head of the IRGC’s SAS.
Taeb’s dismissal has also been linked to Turkey's announcement Thursday that the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) thwarted a planned attack against Israeli diplomats and tourists in Istanbul. MIT said that it detained eight suspects allegedly working for an Iranian intelligence cell.
There are also rumors that Ta’eb was replaced due to long-simmering opposition by other top security figures, including the chief commander of IRGC’s Quds (Qods) Force Esmail Ghaani (Qaani) and Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib.
Media linked to the IRGC such as Javan newspaper have downplayed the importance of Ta’eb’s dismissal, claiming that the shift in the leadership of the IRGC’s SAS by Khamenei was nothing out of the ordinary and should even be considered as a step towards an “intelligence onslaught on the enemy” and an “increase in operations against Israel” by the SAS.
On Saturday, two days after Ta’eb’s dismissal, which officials say was a mere shift in positions, the head of the IRGC's special unit responsible for the Supreme Leader’s protection (Sepah-e Vali-ye Amr) was also replaced. Sepah-e Vali-ye Amir is solely responsible for protection of the Supreme Leader. It was officially established in mid-1980s and is believed to consist of as many as 12,000 highly trained forces.
In an interview with the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) Monday, hardliner lawmaker Mohammad Kowsari who hails from the top brass of the IRGC stressed that Ta’eb’s replacement was normal after his long years in the position.
The IRGC Intelligence Organisation (SAS) was created by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 1997 after the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami and gradually turned into an organization with broad powers and responsibilities.