The death of Khalil Sultan, a high-ranking general of the IRGC's al Qods external terror branch, at his home in the exclusive Damascus district of Al Mezzeh Sunday, May 16 is now revealed by French intelligence and Syrian exile sources in Paris to have been assassination by an unknown hand.
The authorities in Damascus said at the time that the general, whom they described as a rich Syrian businessman, sales agent for the Iranian Kordo automobile manufacturers, was killed in the course of a robbery.
In fact, according to debkafile's intelligence sources, Sultan ran Iranian Revolutionary Guards' covert operations in Damascus and Beirut under deep cover. The gang which burst into his luxury villa and gunned him down with automatic rifles removed only documents and laptops, but did not touch valuables, cash or gold.
As Tehran's top operative for disposing of anti-Iranian elements in Syria and Lebanon, he worked in conjunction with Bashar Assad's intelligence branches. Their most recent joint project was the roundup of Iranian-Arab exiles from Ahwaz who live in Syria.
Western sources disclose that his death caused deep shock in top Syrian and Iranian government and security circles. His assassins' success in reaching this top secret agent in the most closely-guarded neighborhood of the capital, seat of Syrian government institutions and domicile of senior officials, has caused Syrian intelligence and the regime as a whole deep embarrassment – particularly after a long series of hits against high-profile Hizballah and Hamas operatives in the Syrian capital's most secure districts – like the case of Hizballah commander Imad Mughniyeh.
The victim was close to the al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Suleimeni, who is entrusted with the Islamic Republic's most hush-hush clandestine operations. French sources stress, on the other hand, that he was also a personal friend of the Iranian general who recently defected to the West. They name him as Gen. Reza Baba Hossein, the first time, debkafile's sources note, that this Iranian general has been publicly revealed to be a defector to the West.
that an Iranian general has been publicly named as a defector to the West.
Sultan's duties and diverse connections suggest three possible parties may have wanted him dead:
1. More than one foreign element had an interest in sabotaging Iran's covert activities in Syria and Lebanon and the intelligence partnership between Tehran and Damascus.
2. Syrian opposition exiles in Paris point the finger at their Sunni compatriots who are involved in activities for weakening Iranian and Shiite influence in their country.
3. Sultan's friendship with the defecting general may have aroused Tehran's suspicion that he abetted his friend's escape – or even had contacts in Western intelligence himself – in which case, Iranian intelligence would have no qualms about signing his death warrant.