TEHRAN: An Iranian Revolutionary Guards colonel was shot dead outside his Tehran home on Sunday, the Guards said, blaming his “assassination” on assailants linked to the United States and its allies.

The killing of Colonel Sayyad Khodai is the most high profile murder announced by Iran since the 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iran had accused Israel of masterminding the attack on Fakhrizadeh’s convoy near Tehran.

On Sunday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said that “elements linked to global arrogance” — a reference to the US and its allies, including Israel — were responsible for the “terrorist act” that claimed Khodai’s life.

In a statement posted on their website, the Guards said Khodai “was assassinated in an armed attack carried out by two motorcyclists on Mojahedin-e Eslam street in Tehran”, outside his home.

The Guards — the ideological arm of Iran’s military — described Khodai as a “defender of the sanctuary”, a term used for anyone who works on behalf of the Islamic republic in Syria or Iraq.

Iran wields considerable influence in Iraq where it says it has “military advisors” tasked with training foreign “volunteers”.

The Islamic republic is also a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has backed his government in that country’s 11-year civil war.

Tehran says it has deployed forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus, but only as advisors. State television said that Khodai was “well-known” in Syria, without elaborating.

Five bullets

The official news agency IRNA said Khodai was killed by five bullets as he returned home at around 4pm. The agency published pictures showing a man slumped over in the driver’s seat of a white car, with blood around the collar of his blue shirt and on his right upper arm.

He is strapped in with his seat belt and the front window on the passenger side has been shot out.

The Guards said they launched an investigation to identify the “aggressor or aggressors”.

The Fars news agency reported that the state prosecutor visited the scene of the killing and ordered the “quick identification and arrest of the authors of

this criminal act”. Khodai’s killing came as Iran and world powers have been negotiating a deal to restore a 2015 nuclear pact.

The 2015 agreement gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic bomb — something it has always denied wanting to do.

But the US unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump and reimposed biting economic sanctions, prompting Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.

The negotiations, aimed at bringing the US back into the deal and Iran to full compliance with it, have stalled for about two months.

One of the main stumbling block is Tehran’s demand to remove the Guards from a US terrorism list — a request rejected by Washington.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022

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