Covert action in Tehran (Archive: Pixabay)

The killing of a senior IRGC officer in Tehran signals a new phase in the shadow war between Israel and Iran. Colonel Hassan Sayad Khodayari was gunned down in his car at the heart of the Iranian capital Sunday afternoon.

Israel did not claim responsibility for the daring assassination, but the operation displayed some familiar Mossad hallmarks.

Two assassins shot the high-ranking officer from close range before quickly getting away on a motorcycle. The perfect execution, clean getaway, and superb intelligence required for the mission strongly suggest that a highly professional spy agency was behind it.

Mossad allegedly carried out similar operations in the past, deploying female agents in some of these high-risk ops.

Israel’s news networks quickly reported that Col. Khodayari was involved in planning attacks on Israelis and Jews worldwide. Other information pointed to his role in arms smuggling operations in Syria.

Several journalists published the details at the same time, suggesting that they were jointly briefed by security officials.

Wider circle of targets

Notably, previous Israeli operations inside Iran tended to focus on Tehran’s nuclear and weapons programs. The latest assassination marks an expansion of this covert campaign to a wider circle of targets.

The elimination of Khodayari follows an uptick in reported Israeli strikes on Iranian assets in Syria. At least six attacks in the past month targeted military sites and weapons depots in Syrian territory.

Notably, earlier reports indicated that Israel was planning surprising military and covert action against Iran.

In parallel, the latest developments increase the risk escalating the Israel-Iran conflict. The Iranians will seek revenge for Khodayari’s elimination, ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin warned in a talk with IDF Radio.

Moreover, with a highly capable field team already in place inside Iran, another special operation against the regime may be a matter of time. If Israel indeed carried out Sunday’s assassination, it was a clear warning that other senior officials are also in danger.