Did Israel play a role in the Soleimani assassination? - analysis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also gave explicit instructions to the security cabinet after the incident to keep their heads down.

WOMEN HOLD pictures of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani during a funeral procession and burial at his hometown in Kerman earlier this week (photo credit: MEHDI BOLOURIAN/FARS NEWS AGENCY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
WOMEN HOLD pictures of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani during a funeral procession and burial at his hometown in Kerman earlier this week
(photo credit: MEHDI BOLOURIAN/FARS NEWS AGENCY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)
An NBC report said Israel was involved in tracking IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, leading to the US drone strike killing him on January 3.
But this is all only coming out from the US media, seemingly mostly from US sources, and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman himself was only responding to these reports and slamming any Israelis involved in promoting these reports.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also gave explicit instructions to the security cabinet after the incident to keep their heads down.
If in fact Israel helped the US nail possibly the worst living terrorist on the planet, with the blood of countless Israelis on his hands over decades of terrorism, why isn’t Israel proudly taking credit?
The answer – Israel hopes to avoid direct Iranian aggression against it – lies in the difference between Israel’s and the US’s geopolitical positions and, most importantly, the success Israel had in keeping a low profile when it destroyed Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007.
Israel is invariably more careful than the US – especially in the Trump administration era – about taking credit for assassinations or military actions beyond its borders.
There were years of Israeli strikes to block Iran from transferring advanced weapons to militias in Syria or to Hezbollah in Lebanon before Netanyahu and Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot eventually admitted to some of the strikes.
Besides any legal concerns, Jerusalem probably didn’t want Iran, Syria or Hezbollah to lose face or feel the need to respond.
The most well-known example of this was a broad Israeli effort to say nothing about its massive airstrikes and commando raids, according to foreign sources, into Syria in 2007 to confirm the existence of and destroy President Bashar Assad’s secret nuclear reactor.
Attacking such a major strategic asset of an enemy could easily have led to not just blowback but to all-out war with Syria.
Yet, because Assad had kept the reactor’s existence secret, he had heavy incentives simply to say nothing publicly to save face.
Israel’s involvement was only officially confirmed over a decade later when the attack was ancient history and Assad was viewed as weaker and deterred.
Further, the entire purpose of the Mossad, 99% of the time, is to allegedly take out terrorists from Malaysia to Tunis so that Jerusalem can protect Israeli security without military blowback.
Israel’s spy agency usually tries to take out only one person at a time and its standard procedure is to do so in a less public area, making the killing as low profile as possible.
Frequently, reports of an alleged Mossad assassination take time to even reach the public sphere, since other than suddenly uncovering a dead terrorist’s body, no one knows what happened and when.
Although the US may also sometimes act clandestinely, clearly the Trump administration wanted to kill Soleimani in the loudest way possible to deter the Islamic Republic from future aggression.
This is probably why Netanyahu and other Israeli officials would go to such lengths to avoid Israeli confirmation of its involvement, according to the NBC report.
In contrast, Trump and some of his team are known as being among the most open-mouthed administrations in history to brag about military successes.
To the extent the claim of alleged Israeli involvement came from Trump officials, it was not necessarily taking into account Israel’s desires as much as it was giving a full and comprehensive story to NBC and others to get maximum media coverage of the overall story.
If Israel was involved, as sources for the NBC report, and as Liberman claims, they still took the trouble to claim Jerusalem’s alleged involvement anonymously to foreign media to partially cover their tracks.
This could be an attempt to take some credit nine days after the incident and in a roundabout enough way to lower the risk of retaliation by Iran against Israel.
In the meantime, if the attack on Syria’s nuclear reactor is any sign, it could be much time before the true extent of Israel’s involvement is revealed.