One of the prime architects of Iran’s expansion into Syria and its converting of the Lebanese armed forces into a subsidiary of the Iranian IRGC is a guy named Qasem Soleimani. He’s a career soldier who cut his teeth during the Iran-Iraq war. He was liaison to Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq which means he has American blood on his hands. If you called central casting and asked for them to send the urbane Middle Eastern war criminal to the set, Soleimani is the guy who’d show up. Or he might show up with a Dos Equis.
It is really difficult to know how good he is as he’s made his reputation fighting Arab forces. As they say, in the land of the militarily incompetent, the semi-moron is king.
Allegedly, Soleimani was instrumental in getting the Russians involved in Syria. He’s a favorite of the Iranian president and it has been rumored that he may leave the military and devote his time to politics. The Iranian leadership has tried to make Soleimani a folk hero, in best 1984 fashion, and his posters are fairly common in Iranian public places.
On the other side of the ledger, Soleimani was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2007 and the United States in 2011 and he’s an officially designated terrorist by the United States government.
Times of Israel is carrying a story originally reported in a Kuwaiti paper that is very interesting:
US intelligence agencies have given Israel the green light to assassinate the senior Iranian responsible for coordinating military activity on behalf of the Islamic Republic in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida.
There was no immediate reaction to the report from Jerusalem or Washington.
Three years ago, Israel came close to assassinating Soleimani near Damascus, al-Jarida quoted unnamed source as saying, but the Americans tipped off the Iranians against the background of intense disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem.
That was during the Obama administration, which, according to reports at the time, was so focused on securing the 2015 Iran nuclear accord that it chose to overlook and even obstruct efforts to clamp down on Iranian-backed terror organizations.
It’s not clear if the reported tip-off was related to efforts to secure the Iran deal.
Is this true? There are problems with the story, but no more than with your typical Washington Post story by Josh Rogin on the Trump White House:
Lots of issues with this report.
1-based only on one Kuwaiti newspaper
2-Kuwaiti newspaper has no sources
3-likely this headline is about serving an agenda regarding Iran protests
4-Israel doesn't need a "green light"
5-Not clear degree of interest in Soleimani by Israel.
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) January 1, 2018
A lot of these objections are simply “I don’t like it.” You can’t read anything about the war brewing between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria/Lebanon and not think Israel has an interest in punching this guy’s ticket. The fact that several papers have picked up the story doesn’t mean there is bad or irresponsible journalism involved. An equally likely story–considering the size of Israel and the fact that the military/government/intelligence/journalists frequently know each other quite well–is that a journalist asked someone in government and was either told it was good but they didn’t want to confirm it, or they weren’t waved off the story when they inquired about it. Likewise, it is nonsensical to think that Israel is going to target the top Iranian general in the region and not get clearance from Washington. Israel is not going to put US troops at risk for retaliation or put financial aid in jeopardy over one guy.
On the other hand, it is believable.
Is the United States leaking information in order to discourage an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities? That’s what some experts are saying in the wake of a controversial piece published last week in Foreign Policy magazine, which reported that Israel may be intending to use Azerbaijan as a base of operations in the event of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
A number of Israeli journalists, led by Ron Ben-Yishai, one of the country’s esteemed security correspondents, claimed that Mark Perry’s article was clear evidence the White House was leaking critical information about Israel’s strategy in order to pressure Jerusalem to abandon its war plans and wait for the administration’s sanctions to bring the Iranian regime to its knees. U.S. officials have been clear about the dangers of an Israeli attack, a point that they’ve also made through other, less obvious channels. According to Ben-Yishai, the goal of all of this is to “make it more difficult for Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF to carry out a strike.”
There are plenty of American experts who see it the same way. “The leak is entirely consistent with what we know about Obama’s view on the Iranian nuclear weapons program,” John Bolton, former ambassador the United Nations, told me in a phone interview. Bolton argues that the White House has purposefully stripped Israel of its tactical surprise. “First [Defense Secretary] Panetta gave a likely date for a prospective attack, April or May, and now unnamed sources leak a likely place where the attacks might be launched from.”
And the Obama regime’s actions towards both Iran and Israel indicate that there is a high probability of a concerted effort to keep Soleimani safe for the sake of the Iran nuclear deal.
Real? Not real?
I lean toward the real side because the story is plausible and it fits with much of what we see on the ground. At a minimum, Soleimani doesn’t know if it is real either and he’s probably going to start making fewer public appearances.