The Islamic State is the wrong target and the US should be focusing on Iran, according to Tzvi Yehezkeli, head of Channel 13's Arab News desk.
Yehezkeli voiced his opinion on 103FM radio in an interview by host Nissim Meshal on Friday morning.
According to Yehezkeli, the successful US operation in Syria on Thursday that led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi was an important move, both because of the removal of al-Quraishi himself and because of the message it sends across the Middle East: The US will not hesitate to operate in the region and will put boots on the ground if necessary.
However, the attack also indicates that the US is focusing resources and energy on ISIS and not on the real enemy — Iran. This is because the negotiations for a new nuclear deal in Vienna are progressing, and the US does not want to disrupt them by attacking the Ayatollah regime, Yehezkeli said in the interview.
According to him, the US is in a position where it is no longer willing to kill leading Iranian figures, and if, for example, former IRGC head Qassem Suleimani alive today, the Biden administration would not have attacked him as the Trump administration did two years ago. The US is also restraining its responses to attacks by Iranian proxies on its bases.
This is a mistake, Yehezkeli argued, since the US is assuming that Iran will honor a nuclear deal and turn away from its anti-American activity, but Iran is already focusing on the day after the deal and will use the deal to whitewash its real intentions.
Iran is a much more powerful, cunning and bitter enemy of Israel. Indeed, in the early stages of the Syrian civil war Israel's strategic preference was that ISIS sits on its northern border rather than Iran, Yehezkeli said.
He concluded that while killing al-Quraishi was important, the US must not allow the nuclear talks to diminish its focus on Iran, which will pose an immensely larger threat than ISIS in the long term. It also must strengthen its ties with the moderate Gulf states who oppose Iran and be careful not to focus on tactical victories against a far less-threatening enemy.
Al-Quraishi died in a US Special Forces raid in northern Syria on Thursday when he detonated a bomb that killed him and his family members. He had led ISIS, largely in the shadows, since the death of its founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who led the group at the height of its self-declared caliphate when it controlled swathes of Syria and Iraq and ruled over millions of people. Al-Baghdadi was killed when he detonated explosives during a US raid in 2019.
In a short speech at the White House after the operation, US President Joe Biden said that ISIS under Quraishi’s direction has executed terrorist operations targeting Americans, allies and partners, and countless civilians in the Middle East, Africa and in South Asia.
Israel was updated on the American activity in Syria prior to Quraishi’s death, according to Israeli media sources.