Iran’s Intelligence Shake-Up Points to Security Failure and Massive Corruption


The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO), Hossein Taeb, stepped down in June amid speculation that he had in fact been dismissed because of high-profile intelligence leaks. Taeb, a feared man, had held on to his post for 13 years since its founding.  

Taeb leaves office on the heels of a foiled abduction and murder plot targeting Israeli tourists in Turkey. The plot was allegedly planned in response to a series of high-profile assassinations and intelligence leaks for which Israel was blamed. Turkish intelligence services uncovered the Iranian terror cell in Istanbul but Israel identified Taeb as the main man behind the plot, and said it would remain relentless in foiling Iranian acts of terrorism.

This Israeli identification of Taeb with the plot means that there is a high chance that he and his inner circle could be the next target for Tel Aviv’s retaliation. More importantly, Taeb’s connection to Iran’s highest and most coveted power structures may have instilled fear in Tehran after the Israeli warning. IRGC-IO is supervised directly by the Supreme Leader’s Office. Since its public launch around 2009, Taeb headed the IRGC-IO with an inner circle of loyalists linked to Mojtaba Khamenei, the supreme leader’s son and likely successor.  

Taeb has been accused of playing  a major role in massive corruption files involving the swindling of billions of dollars. The former IRGC intelligence chief reportedly stalled investigations by other IRGC branches into Yas Holdings, a company linked to the current Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s corruption ring. Taeb went as far as attempting to arrest the former mayor of Tehran Mohammad Ali Najafi, a “reformist” who unearthed widespread financial corruption during Ghalibaf’s mayorship between 2005 and 2017.

Taeb also clashed with IRGC Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari who was finally removed as the organization’s commander-in-chief by the supreme leader in 2019, after Jafari questioned the reason for the bankruptcy of IRGC credit unions and cooperatives, all linked to corruption files that Taeb may have helped in covering  up. Throughout the coverup, the IRGC-IO tried to keep the Iranian judiciary, supposedly an independent body, at arm’s length to prevent a formal investigation. Others involved in the coverup included the head of the IRGC-affiliated Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters Mohammad Saeed who resigned from his post in 2021 to run in Iran’s presidential race before stepping aside, and Major General Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, both of whom remain within the supreme leader’s trusted inner circle.

Calls to  remove Taeb mounted when reports recently surfaced that he had  fallen out with other senior figureheads. The reports indicated that Iran’s current Minister of Intelligence Esmail Khatib wanted Taeb removed as did the Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani. Heading the IRGC-IO Counterespionage Unit 1500, Taeb had in fact proved to be a disappointment. IRGC-IO ran separate operations from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, and internal rivalries between the two bodies and a lack of coordination compromised  major intelligence operations.

In May, under Taeb’s watch,  Iran declared that Israel was behind the assassination of IRGC Quds Force Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodayari in his car in Tehran.  Khodayari was reportedly behind Iranian plans to target Israeli citizens in Europe and a failed 2012 Bangkok bombing plot to kill Israeli diplomats in Thailand. Earlier, again under Taeb’s watch, IRGC Brigadier General Ali Nasiri, a man responsible for the protection of major state installations and personalities, was secretly arrested on allegations of spying for Israel. Nasiri quietly disappeared from public view in 2019, helping Taeb save face. Two months before Nasiri’s arrest, dozens of Iranians working in the country’s missile industry were reportedly arrested for leaking intelligence about  Iran’s military program to Israel. Iran also repeatedly blamed Israel for sabotaging its nuclear facilities and killing Iranian nuclear scientists. In 2022, two Iranians linked to the country’s missile, drone and aerospace industries were assassinated, for which Israel was again blamed. Failing to identify Israeli spy rings in Iran, Taeb has been replaced by IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Kazemi. Now serving as an advisor to the IRGC Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami, Taeb’s legacy is still being celebrated perhaps to help Iran’s leaders save face, as a man who relentlessly combatted corruption, and arrested spies and moles. More importantly, according to the Tehran Times, his leaving of office and replacement does not mean a change in Iran’s security and strategic policies.

 Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Editorial Team