What was by far the boldest and most controversial foreign policy action of the Trump administration was the assassination of Iran’s IRGC Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani, which could have easily sparked war with Iran. From the start, details of the drone strike as his entourage exited Baghdad International Airport, which also included Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, has been shrouded in mystery.
One key looming question has always been whether Israel was involved or had foreknowledge of the attack. That question has now been answered as on Tuesday it’s been revealed that Israel’s former military intelligence chief has confirmed his country’s involvement. It’s the first time Israel has confirmed it’s role in the killing of the top Iranian general, which it must be recalled resulted in Iran firing dozens of ballistic missiles onto US bases in neighboring Iraq in retaliation.
According the The Hill and the Associated Press, “Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman, who retired as the head of army intelligence in October, suggested in an interview with a Hebrew magazine that Israel was involved with two assassination attempts while he served the country — the first being Soleimani, who was killed in an American airstrike near Baghdad’s airport.”
His mention of a second assassination is a likely reference to Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed by an A.I. remote operated heavy machine gun in November 2020.
Speaking about Soleimani’s death, Gen. Heyman described that “Assassinating Soleimani was an achievement, since our main enemy, in my eyes, are the Iranians,” according to the Associated Press. In the AP’s description of the interview contents, the top Israeli general appears to confirm Israel’s role as providing its US ally with Soleimani’s precise whereabouts at the time of the operation:
“The first, as I’ve already recalled, is that of Qassem Soleimani — it’s rare to locate someone so senior, who is the architect of the fighting force, the strategist and the operator — it’s rare,” he said. Heyman called Soleimani “the engine of the train of Iranian entrenchment” in neighboring Syria.
There were earlier hints at Israel’s role such as in this NBC news report from shortly after the drone strike, but never a direct confirmation from an Israeli leader.
The interview “confession” begs the question of why admit Israel’s role now. Likely it’s timed in order to create further friction between Iran and Western powers negotiating a restored nuclear deal in Vienna. Israel is actively lobbying for the US side to cut off all dialogue, arguing that the Vienna negotiations are a ruse so that Tehran can buy more time to advance it’s nuclear program.
The next step is likely to be more Israeli covert sabotage operations against Iranian nuclear sites – something which the Biden administration has recently warned against.