U.S. 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.
For the past 20 years or so, Qassem Soleimani has commanded the Quds Force — the branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards responsible for military and clandestine operations outside of the Islamic Republic.
Soleimani is a key figure in efforts to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to enable him to retake cities and towns from rebel groups during his country’s ongoing civil war. He is also responsible for providing military aid to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza — both of which are committed to the destruction of Israel — as well as to Shia and Kurdish groups in Iraq.
Thursday’s report by al-Jarida, which has been known to publish improbable-sounding stories about Israel, was widely picked up by Israeli media. 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 an 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.
Today, the Trump and Netanyahu administrations see eye to eye on Iran. Just four days ago, the two countries signed a joint memorandum of understanding laying the groundwork for full cooperation to deal with Iran’s nuclear drive, its missile programs, and its other threatening activities, an Israeli TV report said recently.
The source was quoted by the paper as saying that Soleimani’s assassination would serve both countries’ interests and that U.S. authorities have given Israel the go-ahead to carry it out.