Thursday night wasn’t the first time a U.S. President has had IRGC Gen. Qasem Soleimani in their crosshairs. Both President George W. Bush and President Obama passed up chances to kill him.
Tablet Magazine’s Tony Badran discusses the circumstances surrounding those opportunities in a new article.
The first came in 2007. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was serving as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command at the time. During an interview last year, he said, “At the time, Iranian-made roadside bombs built and deployed at his command were claiming the lives of U.S. troops across Iraq.” Bush and his military commanders would not authorize the action. McChrystal said they wanted “to avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow.”
The next occasion was about a year later. This story was revealed in 2015 by a former U.S. official. Badran explains the scenario. “During the operation to assassinate Hezbollah’s senior military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus in 2008, Soleimani was present with Mughniyeh.”
The official said, “At one point, the two men were standing there, same place, same street. All they had to do was push the button. But the operatives didn’t have the legal authority to kill Soleimani … There had been no presidential finding to do so.”
According to Badran:
Seemingly immune from U.S. retaliation, Soleimani spent the Obama years strutting around Iraq and Syria like a peacock in ’70s-style turtleneck sweaters and an array of tailored military style jackets like an IRGC version of Al Pacino in Scarface, while garnering admiring magazine profiles.
This nauseating treatment started at the top. Under President Obama, the U.S. was realigning with Iran, which meant providing its regime with billions of dollars, some of it hand delivered by U.S. officials in the form of large pallets of cash. The U.S. also provided direct military support to Soleimani’s Iraqi militias as part of the anti-ISIS campaign. It was important not to cross Iran’s red lines, administration officials regularly leaked at the time, so as not to jeopardize the safety of U.S. soldiers while they killed Iran’s enemies in Iraq and Syria–a strategy that was variously labeled as “counterterrorism” or “the fight against Al Qaeda” or “the war against ISIS,” and which invariably involved aligning with Iran to kill Sunni Arabs, who form the majority of the region’s population.
Taking the red-carpet treatment for granted, Iran appears to have badly miscalculated with President Trump.
I also came across a story published in both The Times of Israel and Haaretz on January 1, 2018 which I was unable to verify. Their source is Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper, which they appear to trust. It’s not exactly the kind of story that can be verified.
Haaretz‘ lede: “Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper which in recent years had broken exclusive stories from Israel, says Israel was ‘on the verge’ of assassinating Soleimani, but the U.S. warned Tehran and thwarted the operation.”
Excerpt from Haaretz’ article: (Note: The article is two years old.)
The report says Israel was “on the verge” of assassinating Soleimani three years ago, near Damascus, but the United States warned the Iranian leadership of the plan, revealing that Israel was closely tracking the Iranian general.
The incident, the report said, “sparked a sharp disagreement between the Israeli and American security and intelligence apparatuses regarding the issue.”
The Kuwaiti report also identified Iran’s second in command in Syria, known as “Abu Baker,” as Mohammad Reda Falah Zadeh. It said he also “might be a target” for Israel, as well as other actors in the region.
As I said, there’s no way to prove this story, but I can actually envision the Obama administration tipping them off. In 2015, Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry were interested in signing a nuclear deal with Iran to cement his legacy. A tip that would save the life of the second most powerful man in their country would go a long way toward establishing trust and good will, nearly as much as a plane full of cash.
Anyway, it’s a shame neither President Bush nor President Obama took the opportunity to eliminate this thug who is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 600 U.S. troops and thousands of other deaths throughout the Middle East over the last 20 years. Fortunately, President Trump had the nerve to get it done.