by Oleg Burunov
The 3 January assassination of Iran Revolutionary Guards Quds Commander Qasem Soleimani exacerbated further the already tense relationship between Baghdad and Washington.
NBC News has cited unnamed sources as saying that Israel helped the US stage an operation that led to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force from the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The sources claimed that Israel added to the January 3 operation by providing the Americans with key intelligence details on the matter.
The details helped confirm and verify intelligence from informants at a Syrian airport that Soleimani had been on a nighttime flight from Damascus to Baghdad, info which was used to tip off the CIA.
The New York Times, in turn, reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of Soleimani’s killing, and that the Jewish state likely became Washington’s only ally which was in the know about the issue.
In October, the Iranian news agency Tasnim cited the IRGC’s head of intelligence Hossein Taeb as saying that Israel and the West had collaborated to assassinate Soleimani in order to “trigger a religious war inside Iran”.
“Frustrated by their failure to upset security in Iran or to harm the IRGC military bases, the enemies had hatched an extensive plot to hit Maj.-Gen. Soleimani in his home province of Kerman,” Taeb claimed at the time.
On 3 January, Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport in what Tehran condemned as an act of international terrorism. US President Donald Trump insisted that that the attack destroyed the “number one terrorist anywhere in the world”.
Iran retaliated on 7 January, when it attacked US military forces at the Ayn Al-Asad Air Base and a facility in Erbil in Iraq with ballistic missiles. No casualties were confirmed in the attack, which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said were carried out in self-defence and in line with the UN Charter.
This was followed by Trump’s address to the nation in which he specifically stressed that the US would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
At the same time, he made it plain that Washington was still prepared to make peace with Tehran if its leadership “changed its behaviour”, indicating that there would be no immediate US escalation in the conflict.