Mossad chiefs: Iran may avenge Soleimani killing after Biden inauguration

Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit told the 'Post' that “the Iranians’ patience is never-ending.”

FORMER DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Mossad Shabtai Shavit speaks in Tel Aviv in 2017. (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
FORMER DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Mossad Shabtai Shavit speaks in Tel Aviv in 2017.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Two former Mossad chiefs and a former national security council chief all said on Sunday that Iran had failed to avenge the assassination of one of its most senior officials in 2020 and likely would not do so prior to US President-Elect Joe Biden taking office.
However, they all told The Jerusalem Post that the Islamic Republic would eventually find a moment to avenge the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Chief Qasem Soleimani exactly one year ago.
Former Mossad director Shabtai Shavit told the Post that, “the Iranians’ patience is never-ending.”
Shavit said that the killing of Soleimani in January 2020 along with the assassination of Iran military nuclear program chief Mohsen Fakrhizadeh in November was “a double blow against its military activity in the Middle East” which it has not recovered from.
The Mossad chief between 1989-1996 said that Esmail Ghaani who replaced Soleimani “isn’t at a level even close to the same capabilities and importance and managerial ability.”
Whereas Shavit said there is a continuous debate about whether assassinations make sense, he said in the cases of Soleimani and Fakrhrizadeh, there was no doubt.
“Some say they are not useful because one goes and the next one comes into line and replaces him…the level of talent of the one who entered his [Soleimani’s] shoes disproves that argument,” said the former spymaster.
In terms of retaliation, Shavit said that even though Tehran has not successfully retaliated in a big way so far (it did fire missiles on US bases and has failed at some other attempted plots),  “we must take into account that they will respond. They will wait for an opportunity to attack a high quality target.”
He gave the example of Iran and its proxies’ attacks on the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Community Center in Argentina in 1992 and 1994.
Questioned if his example meant he believed Iran would attack Israel or Jewish targets outside of the Jewish state, he responded, “when they do an operation, they use the strategy of deniability. This way, legally no one can bring them to court, but publicly everyone knows they did it.”
Former Mossad director Danny Yatom told the Post, “the assassination [of Soleimani] was a very impressive one of strategic value covering the full field with Iran.”
Yatom said, Soleimani, “was much more than just the leader of the Quds Force. He was more important than the commander of the IRGC who supposedly was his commander. He was very close to the supreme leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The former Mossad chief from 1996-1998 said that the death of Soleimani was “a harsh blow to both morale and actual operations…the Quds Force is still licking its wounds.”
Yatom said that “since Ghaani relieved Soleimani, there is a feeling that the Quds Force still hasn’t returned to the status it had before the killing and I doubt if it can get back.”
“There are reports that Iran is looking for the chance to attack an Israeli target or an American target. I don’t say that it is impossible…but they have waited a full year and have not succeeded to avenge one of the most important people in Iran,” he said.
He explained that, “this teaches us about the weakness of the Quds Force and of the IRGC today now that they don’t have Soleimani.”
Yatom added that, “even under his [Soleimani’s] command, attempts directly against Israeli territory itself were not successful,” including years in which he tried to create a capability to attack Israel using Shi’ite militias on the Syrian side of the Golan.
Former national security council chief and Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said at a virtual Jerusalem Press Club event that Iran has, “no interest today in resuming a large-scale confrontation with anyone, especially not with the US in the next two weeks before the transition of the presidency.”
“So I don’t think anything dramatic will happen in the next few days or hours just because it is the anniversary of the death” of Soleimani, said Eiland.
The former national security council chief continued, “But Iran feels that at some point, it will have to retaliate, if not against the US, then against Israel or Israeli interests.”
Like Shavit, Eiland mentioned Iran’s proxies worldwide, including in South America, which could attack Israeli and Jewish targets that are less well-defended than Israel itself.
He added that, “They would probably prefer to do it after Biden takes over. Trump is unpredictable,” and the Islamic Republic is hoping they can lure Biden into rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal at a low price.
Despite heightened threats surrounding the one-year anniversary of Soleimani’s death, he said both sides have taken actions to reduce friction, such as the US moving an aircraft carrier out of the area.
Shavit concurred, saying that, “they won’t forget to retaliate. Maybe the timing will be not when they are in negotiations with the Americans…They would be foolish to carry out an attack [during negotiations] just because they have an opportunity. But they are very shrewd people, you can’t underestimate them.”
Further, Shavit warned that even if the assassination of Soleimani worked this tool for fighting enemies must not be overused.
He said it could only be used for a very high quality target whose removal achieves a major purpose or there could be a danger of Israel losing some of its own ethics and humanity as well as facing increased global criticism.
Eiland warned that Israel still needed to watch out for “a cloudy Saturday morning when [mainland] Israeli targets may be attacked by cruise missiles from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, or with ballistic missiles from Hezbollah.”