DUBAI, Oct 3 (Reuters) – A senior Iranian official said on Thursday that Tehran had foiled a plot by Israeli and Arab agencies to assassinate Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force.
State media quoted Hossein Taeb, the Revolutionary Guards security chief, as telling a conference that the plotters had planned to buy a property adjacent to the grave of Soleimani’s father and rig it with explosives to kill the commander.
Soleimani leads the foreign arm of the Guards and has had a key role in fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Taeb said an unspecified number of people had been arrested in the plot, which he said had been “years in planning”.
Taeb did not name the Arab countries allegedly involved in the plot, but Iran has had tense relations with U.S.-allied regional rival Saudi Arabia.
It was not possible to independently verify the events described by Iranian media.
Soleimani’s Quds Force, tasked with carrying out operations beyond Iran’s borders, has shored up support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad when he looked close to defeat in the civil war raging since 2011 and also helped militiamen defeat Islamic State in Iraq.
Its successes have made Soleimani instrumental in the steady spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East, which the United States and Tehran’s foes Saudi Arabia and Israel have struggled to keep in check.
There have been repeated air attacks on Quds bases in Syria and in August Israel accused the force of planning “killer drone attacks” and said its air strike showed Tehran that its forces were vulnerable anywhere.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said at the time that Israel was working to “uproot” Soleimani, according to Israeli media.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Giles Elgood)