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Iran Announces Revenge for Killing of Colonel Khoadei and Houthi Rebels Down Saudi Coalition Drone

May 19-25, 2022 | Issue 8 - CENTCOM

Elizabeth Leoce, Sofia Pantoula, Marco Parks, Muskan Muskan, CENTCOM Team

Maisie Beavan, Editor; Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi[1]

Date: May 23, 2022

Location: Tehran, Iran

Parties involved: Islamic Republic of Iran; Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); senior IRGC member Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei; Former Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh; Israel; Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; Former Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu; US; Syria; Syrian resistance; Iranian proxies in Syria; US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list

The event: Iranian President Raisi announced that Iran would seek revenge for the killing of Colonel Khodaei. Currently, there is no claim of responsibility for the killing. The attack style resembles the November 2020 death of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, for which Iran blamed Israel. Colonel Khodaei’s death comes as the country is restoring a nuclear agreement, and US sanctions continue to damage Iran’s economy, which has been undergoing rising inflation and poverty.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The fatal attack on Colonel Khodaei likely implies that senior Iranian officials are at an increased risk of being targeted, almost certainly demonstrating a weakness in Iranian security. Targeting an IRGC commander likely suggests the attack was not to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program and is likely linked to the IRGC’s position in Syria. A sizable Syrian opposition likely threatens its proxies, making IRGC officials more vulnerable targets.

  • The Colonel’s killing will very likely encourage retaliation targeting foreign actors believed to be responsible for the attack. Retaliatory attacks will likely impact the prospects of delisting the IRGC from the FTO list, as any violent engagement would likely encourage the US to keep the IRGC on the list. The perpetrator likely carried out this attack to maintain the IRGC’s position on the list, likely to sabotage any prospects of a delisting deal with the US.

  • The Colonel’s death is unlikely to set back Iran’s nuclear program as President Raisi will likely react by accelerating the program, further delaying a diplomatic agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the US. Nuclear enrichment will likely lead to further sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, almost certainly exacerbating the economic decline. President Raisi will likely use the IRGC Colonel’s killing and the imposition of further sanctions to strengthen his anti-western rhetoric.

Date: May 23, 2022

Location: Sana’a, Yemen

Parties involved: Houthi rebels; Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea; Islamic Republic of Iran; Hezbollah; Saudi-led military coalition; Yemen; Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates (UAE); United Nations (UN); Amnesty International; Red Crescent Movement; Chinese-made CH-4 armed spy plane

The event: Houthi forces shot down a Saudi-led military coalition’s armed spy drone in a commercial area in Sana’a, killing three people and injuring several others. Sarea said their air-defense systems shot a Chinese-made CH4-armed spy plane with a surface-to-air missile. The Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to the event. This incident occurred amid a two-months ceasefire brokered by the UN, set to expire at the beginning of June 2, 2022.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Houthi rebels will very likely consider this incident a violation of the ceasefire, likely demanding the UN take strict actions against the Saudi-led coalition. Failure to do so will likely encourage Houthi rebels to break the agreement and resume attacks against the Saudi-led coalition. Houthis will likely use their alliance with Iran and Hezbollah to acquire advanced weaponry such as ballistic missiles and drones to target the coalition’s military bases, airports, and oil facilities in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

  • The Saudi-led coalition’s decision to send drones over civilian areas in Yemen will likely prompt international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and the Red Crescent Movement, to question the coalition's intentions to respect the truce terms. Escalating tensions between both parties will likely undermine prisoner exchanges and the resumption of commercial flights from Sana'a airport, requiring humanitarian support from international actors, such as the UN. The Houthis will likely close humanitarian corridors to the areas under their control in response to the escalating tensions, likely hindering a future UN-brokered truce. This will likely result in enhanced international pressure on the Saudi-led coalition, likely forcing them to seek more peaceful methods, which could likely result in a negotiation within a neutral state to resolve the conflict.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[2] Iran vows revenge over killing of Guard member in Tehran, Associated Press, May 2022,

[3] Three killed in Yemen's capital by downed drone, Houthi officials say, Reuters, May 2022,



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