Intellibrief: 1/2022 – Iran, Afghanistan, India (CDS)


In the new series we start intelligence briefings on events which occurred recently in the regional strategic environment we analyse the implications having significant impact on security and stability overall which are beyond the headlines.


The first in the series we discuss events and debates in Iran Afghanistan and India (CDS).


Iran – IRGC Replaces Intelligence Chief


Tasnim News, an outlet known to be close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in a prominent headline announced the appointment of a new chief for the IRGC Intelligence Organisation.


Commander of the IRGC appointed a new chief for the IRGC Intelligence Organization said the Report indicating that General Mohammad Kazemi has replaced Hojjatoleslam Hossein Taeb, a cleric who held the post for over 12 years.


Multiple Iranian media sources replicated the news.


Reasons for Replacement


The replacement of Taeb who some say is second only to the Supreme Authority Ayatollah Khamanei was obviously not given in Iranian media, but the series of incident of sabotage of nuclear facilities and assassination of key personnel of the IRGC and those working on the nuclear programme indicated that there was a loss of confidence in his ability to control penetration of the Mossad – Israel’s efficient and effective spy agency now operating under the newly created Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate to supplement “mabam,” strategy, or “campaign between the wars.”


So far the IRGC has not acknowledged some of the incidents, but the sacking of the powerful Taeb is a recognition of the same.


Recent Incidents of Targeting


Some recent incidents of failure of the IRGC intelligence to unravel attacks on Iranian nuclear assets and personnel include-


A blast in western Tehran on a ballistic missile development facility possibly due to a drone strike undertaken from an area 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the targeted base. The drones were reportedly smuggled in bypassing strict border controls in parts.


May 26 explosion at the Parchin military research complex south of Tehran was also the result of a drone strike.


Assassination of Sayyad Khodaei, the IRGC colonel assassinated in a drive-through murder just as he was leaving his office in Tehran. Khodaei reportedly led Unit 840 of the IRGC specializing in assassinations abroad.


Another IRGC Colonel suspected to be the link to Mossad mysteriously died in what was declared as a suicide, jumping from the top floor of his residence.


Two Aerospace engineersA li Kamani and Mohammad Abdus were declared as killed in road accidents suspected to be assassinations.


Implications


The ongoing Iran and Israel Grey Zone operations are expected to intensify. While Israel has the upper hand for now, IRGC may attempt to breach the advantage with a typical disruptive repertoire of kidnapping, assassinations and cyber attacks amongst other strikes.


Afghanistan – Taliban Counters Rebels in Sar E Pol


In the first major rebellion of a leader within the group, the Taliban acknowledged the threat from Mawlawi Mehdi, the only commander from the Hazara ethnic group.


Mawlawi Mehdi is based in Sar E Pol a province in the North which has large number of non Pashtuns along with adjoining Jowjan and Balkh.


Mehdi reportedly appointed one of his associates to head the Balkhab district displacing Mawlawi Ataullah, the Taliban-appointed district governor after the central leadership failed to resolve differences.


Taliban (IEA) Reaction


Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat, Chief of Staff of the Islamic Emirate armed forces is said to be leading a military operation for elimination of the threat posed by Mehdi with contingents from the Al-Fatah North Corps and Al-Farooq Herat Corps as per Bakhtar News Agency the official Taliban media outlet.


Fitrat is himself one of the few non Pashtuns in the Taliban hierarchy and is a Tajik.


Implications


Outside the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the rebellion by Mawlawi Mehdi is the first major concern for the Taliban leading to deployment of a large force under the military commander in chief.


In the past acting Defence Minister Mullah Yaqoob has visited Panjshir to supervise operations against the NRFA.


While Mawlawi Mehdi’s rebellion may be suppressed growing resentment amongst the Taliban in power in Kabul needs to be noted.


India – Delay & Process of Appointing Chief of Defence Staff


Even as the new process of induction of recruits in the Indian armed forces Agnipath has been gathering national attention, the delay and process of appointing Chief of the Defence Staff was pushed to the background.


However, an opinion piece in the Print by veteran Lt Gen H S Panag who has served as the GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command scathingly remarks, “It seems CDS eligibility has been tweaked to pick a specific retired Lt Gen or Army Commander. The spin of 'deep selection' to find the 'meritorious' is just a charade”.


This may generate debate on not just the delay but the propriety of nomination of the CDS as and when the same is undertaken.


Panag states that the order on 7 June, notifying “serving and retired Generals, that is, Chiefs of Army/Air/Naval Staff, and Lieutenant Generals (Lt Gens) below the age of 62 — eligible for the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS),” will be disrupting the time worn process of selection based on seniority and merit in the military.


Panag quotes “criticism from defence analysts and veterans who perceived it as a tool to appoint “political generals” as the CDS”.


Social media mentions two prominent Lt Generals who have recently retired from the military who may be appointed as the CDS over the heads of the services chiefs.


Implications


There have been a number of concerns that have been expressed over the delay in appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff after the demise of General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter accident in December last year.


An appointment made which disrupts the seniority may add to the present state of flux in the military. And while the services Chiefs and senior commanders will continue to toe the line of the government, internal rumblings are undesirable as a number of government is serious of undertaking a number of reforms in the military such as the Agnipath recruitment scheme and theaterisation.


More over the same may smack of politicization of the Indian Army best known for professionalism through nepotism in promotions.

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