Ex-IDF intel chief reveals more details on Israel's role in Soleimani killing

"The Americans’ view of him was radically altered after they saw the intelligence from us and the level of danger he [continued to] present to Americans," former IDF intel. chief Tamir Heyman said.

A poster of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani is seen during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022 (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
A poster of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani is seen during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022
(photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)

Why did former IDF Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Tamir Heyman reveal in December 2021, shortly after he had retired, that Israel assisted with intelligence aspects of the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani?

US drones assassinated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander, a nemesis of Israel for decades, as he left Baghdad Airport on January 3, 2020.

How extensive was Israel's role? 

Although NBC News and Yahoo News had published detailed pieces about Israel’s role, all official Israeli echelons had been mum on the issue. The censor had actively prevented Israeli journalists, including those with The Jerusalem Post, from providing details for nearly two years – until Heyman broke the news.

So why did Heyman, who is now managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank, think it was appropriate to discuss Israel’s role publicly, without fears about angering Iran into retaliation?

Wax statue of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Tehran (credit: MEHDI MARIZAD/FARS NEWS AGENCY)Wax statue of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Tehran (credit: MEHDI MARIZAD/FARS NEWS AGENCY)

In an interview with the Post, he said: “I stand by what I announced. We gave intelligence that incriminated and proved the responsibility of Soleimani for killing Americans. The Americans’ view of him was radically altered after they saw the intelligence from us and the level of danger he [continued to] present to Americans.”

“I stand by what I announced. We gave intelligence that incriminated and proved the responsibility of Soleimani for killing Americans. The Americans’ view of him was radically altered after they saw the intelligence from us and the level of danger he [continued to] present to Americans.”

Former IDF Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Tamir Heyman

“The Americans needed Soleimani during the fight against ISIS [which continued until 2017-2018],” Heyman said. “But they did not forgive him for the attacks he had carried out against Americans. Still, they understood he was necessary and effective against ISIS.

“There needed to be intelligence information to change things after ISIS. He [Soleimani] rechanneled his violence toward Americans and [created new] national security dangers for America. We gave this [intelligence information] to them. This was the trigger that changed their concept of who Soleimani is. It took a period of months, but eventually[,] they understood.”

What do the experts think about Iran?

According to many analysts, Iran has been constantly trying to target Israelis with terrorist attacks.

Reflecting on the larger impact of eliminating Soleimani, Heyman said: “They accomplished one of the most successful operations against Iran in the region even to this day. The assassination of Soleimani was a point in which there was a paradigm shift.

"They accomplished one of the most successful operations against Iran in the region even to this day."

Former IDF Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Tamir Heyman

“His successors have not been as effective. He was a truly unique figure. It was like the architect of a building disappearing, where the workers keep building. At the beginning, it looks like the same building, but later the building loses aspects of its shape because no one tells them when to build the roof and the porches.”

Heyman broke the news of Israeli intelligence involvement as part of an interview with Malam magazine, which is published by the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center.

“Soleimani’s assassination is an achievement since our main enemies, in my eyes, are the Iranians,” he told Malam, discussing two major assassination operations in which Israel played a role (with Soleimani referring to an intelligence role).

Heyman declined to address the specifics of Israel’s intelligence role reported by NBC and Yahoo regarding allegedly tracking Soleimani’s numerous cellphones and providing that tracking information to the US.