A notorious commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), previously expelled from Syria, was in charge of operations to kill Israelis, Iran International has learned.
General Javad Ghaffari, the IRGC Qods Force commander who had reportedly been expelled from Syria last November for ‘major breach of Syrian sovereignty’, led the IRGC Intelligence Organization's plots to kill Israelis in Turkey in the past nine months, a former senior IRGC official told Iran International.
After returning from Syria, Ghaffari was appointed as the deputy head of IRGC Intelligence Organization for Special Operations, where he orchestrated a series of failed attacks against Israeli citizens, the Iranian source said.
In the latest case in June, Turkey's 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.
Ghaffari was the third commander of the Iranian forces in Syria since 2011 when Iran began its large-scale intervention in Syria's civil war. He started his career in Syria as one of the commanders at the Iranian forces' headquarters in Damascus and was later appointed as the commander of the forces in Aleppo - where he became known as the 'Butcher of Aleppo'.
There, he led Iranian forces as well as their Lebanese Hezbollah proxies and Afghan mercenaries, the Fatemiyoun, until he was allegedly ousted by Assad.
Ghaffari was expelled from Syria as he was "accused of ‘major breach of Syrian sovereignty’ after attacking US forces, and deploying Iranian weapons to unapproved places," the Times of Israel quoted Saudi sources as saying.
According to the Times, it was reportedly Syria that shunned Ghaffari for "nearly starting a war with Israel," and "almost causing an unwanted regional war."
Ghaffari's expulsion from Syria not only did not result in his retirement, but also won him a senior position at the IRGC Intelligence Organization (SAS).
His failures at SAS outraged many IRGC officials, and finally prompted Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to sack the organization's controversial, but powerful chief Hossein Ta'eb, who had run SAS for 13 years.
However, Ghaffari was not the first or only official responsible for SAS operations overseas. His predecessor Reza Seraj had also been sacked for a failed plot to kill Israelis in Cyprus.
Javad Ghaffari (left) and Reza Seraj
Another key figure in the unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Israelis in Turkey was Rouhollah Bazghandi, the deputy head of the SAS counterintelligence (Unit 1500), the former senior IRGC official told Iran International.
Bazghandi was in charge of the June operation to assassinate former Israeli Consul General in Istanbul, Yosef Levi Sfari, as well as three Israeli women tourists.
By using amateur agents to carry out the attacks against Israeli targets in Istanbul, Bazghandi dealt a heavy blow to IRGC Intelligence Organization, the source told Iran International.
He was also in charge of thwarting plots to assassinate Iran's security officials inside Iran; however, Hossein Ta'eb used him for his extraterritorial operations, and apparently his absence, among other reasons, turned Iran into a safe haven for Israeli Mossad agents who launched several sabotage operations and assassinations, killing Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, other key figures and scientists in Iran's drone, missile and nuclear program.
On May 22, two assailants on a motorbike fired several bullets at Col. Sayyad-Khodaei outside his home in broad daylight, prompting Iranian officials to accuse Israel of organizing the attack, and vowed revenge.
This incident was followed by more mysterious deaths of IRGC officers and weapons experts, which were again blamed on Israel that has not denied responsibility as it is engaged in a secret war with the Islamic Republic.