Another senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has died in mysterious circumstances in Iran.

Col. Ali Esmailzadeh of the elite Quds Force died in an “incident at his residence” in the city of Karaj, about 35 kilometers northwest of Tehran, Iranian authorities said on Friday. Sources close to the Revolutionary Guards said the officer fell from the rooftop or balcony of his home.

Authorities denied that Col. Esmailzadeh had been assassinated, but his death is the second in two weeks among officers of the Quds Force, which oversees Iran’s military operations abroad.

On May 22, two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei five times in a car in front of his home in Tehran. Iran blamed his death on the US and its allies, including Israel. Iran traditionally blames Israel for such targeted killings, including those of nuclear scientists over the past years.

The death of Col. Khodai, 50, was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 murder of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which was also attributed to Israel.

The latest mysterious death came as Israel again warned on Friday that it would take independent action to prevent Iran from creating a nuclear bomb.

“While it prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, Israel reserves the right to self-defence and action against Iran to stop its nuclear program if the international community fails to do so within the relevant time frame,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

Israel’s warning came amid grow-ng tension before a crunch meeting next week of the agency’s board of governors, at which Iran is expected to suffer an official rebuke for failing to explain the presence of uranium particles at three undeclared nuclear development sites.

Iran said on Friday it would respond immediately to any such action at the meeting, which begins on Monday. “Any political action by the US and the three European countries in the IAEA would provoke without any doubt a propor- tional, effective and immediate response,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said.

A critical resolution at the IAEA would almost certainly spell the end of talks in Vienna to revive the moribund 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Talks on the issue in Vienna have been stalled since March.

The original agreement gave Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions. The US pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, and Iran has since ramped up its enrichment of uranium.

 

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