Israeli intel helped the US assassinate Soleimani - report

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said that the report was based on Israeli sources, which was a poor judgement.

Qasem Soleimani, commander of IRGC Quds Force (photo credit: SAYYED SHAHAB-O-DIN VAJEDI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Qasem Soleimani, commander of IRGC Quds Force
Israeli intelligence was instrumental in the successful US assassination of the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, NBC News reported on Sunday.
Soleimani wielded immense power and influence in his position and was crucial as the architect who spread and maintained Iran’s influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in the region through acts of terrorism.
After flying to Iraq from Damascus on a Cham Wings Airbus A320, he and his security entourage were killed by four US hellfire missiles targeting their two vehicles as they were leaving Baghdad International Airport on January 3. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an important leader of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed.
According to NBC and Reuters, informants in Damascus were able to tip off the CIA about exactly which plane Soleimani would be on, which Israeli intelligence confirmed and verified.
Reuters was told by Iraqi investigators that the US had inside help from two security staffers at the Baghdad airport and two Cham Wings employees - “a spy at the Damascus airport and another one working on board the airplane,” the source said. Iraqi national security agency’s investigators believe the four suspects, who have not been arrested, worked as part of a wider group of people feeding information to the US military, the official said.
According to The New York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was likely the only US ally in the know regarding the assassination, having spoken to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo beforehand.
Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said the Times report was based on Israeli sources, which he noted was poor judgment.
“We need to distance ourselves from it,” he said in a radio interview Sunday. “Ambiguity and silence are the best thing for us.”
Liberman is a former defense minister and said he has a lot of experience in working with publications like the Times.
“They usually rely on Israeli sources,” he said. “I suggest you check who they are.” Despite his comments, in 2017, Liberman himself essentially confirmed Israeli involvement in helping the US thwart a planned ISIS attack while speaking at an Israel Bar Association event. This was at a time when Israeli officials were mostly mum about the story splashed across the media’s frontpages across the world.
The assassination of Soleimani resulted in inflaming the tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic, with a massive debate about whether it finally sent a message of deterrence to Iran or whether it will eventually destabilize the region.
At the end of last week, Iran responded with missile strikes on US bases in Iraq. These strikes failed to kill any US troops, however, and Trump declared the crisis over.
According to an Iranian television interview in early October, Israel and the West had recently attempted to assassinate Soleimani but failed.
Hossein Ta’eb, the IRGC’s head of intelligence, said three suspects in the alleged plot were arrested, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported.
Ta’eb said the assassins had worked on their plan for a number of years. It involved blowing up Soleimani at a memorial service during the Muslim month of Muharram, which began in early September, 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,” Ta’eb was quoted as saying.
The team planned to buy a house near a congregation hall where Shi’ite memorial prayers are held, according to Ta’eb. The hall was built in the southern Iranian province of Kerman in honor of Soleimani’s father, who died in 2017. The team reportedly planned to tunnel under the building and detonate a 500 kg. bomb during the mourning period of Fatimiyya, which commemorates the martyrdom of Fatimah al-Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and wife of the Caliph Ali, “as soon as Maj.-Gen. Soleimani went to the mourning ceremony like every year.”
Ta’eb stated that the IRGC had been watching the team, which had been planning the attack for several years, before it entered the Islamic Republic.
If true, this would mean the January 3 strike was part of an extended campaign to take Soleimani out by Israel and the West.
Anna Ahronheim and Reuters contributed to this report.