Timing of report on 'Israeli hit' could aid Biden-Israel relations

The assassination could make the Biden administration less inclined to go soft on Iran.

A MAN WALKS on a Tehran street this week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared this week that ‘from Sunday we can sell our weapons to whomever we want and buy weapons from whomever we want.’ (photo credit: REUTERS)
A MAN WALKS on a Tehran street this week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared this week that ‘from Sunday we can sell our weapons to whomever we want and buy weapons from whomever we want.’
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A New York Times report that says Israel took out one of the world’s most-wanted al-Qaeda terrorists in Tehran has major implications for the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
First, it illustrates the close relationship between Israel and the United States in combating terrorism. Second, it could make the new administration more cautious about going soft on an Iran, which hosted an al-Qaeda operative wanted for US Embassy bombings in the 1990s.
Initial reports said Abu Muhammad al-Masri was killed at the “behest” of the US. He was killed in August, so why did the information only come out in November?
The reports of the killing in Tehran led to important questions about Iran’s role in accepting global terrorists, former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren said.
“No one is asking why Iran is hosting al-Qaeda commanders and why the United States should renew a nuclear deal that gives tens of billions of dollars to those who harbor the murderers of 3,000 Americans,” he said.
The operation to track and kill Masri took place earlier this year, the Associated Press reported Sunday, and was facilitated by “bold intelligence operations by the two allied nations.” The US provided the intelligence on where Masri was living and his alias, and “Israeli agents carried out the killing,” the report said.
Masri was killed by “Kidon, a unit within the secretive Israeli spy organization Mossad allegedly responsible for the assassination of high-value targets,” the report said. Masri’s daughter, the widow of Hamzah bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, was also killed, it said.
The killing of this al-Qaeda senior leader could help Israel with the new US administration, according to reports. This is important because the Biden team is considered close to Israel but is also critical of the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
Regarding Iran, there was deep divergence between the Trump administration and those who preferred to stay within the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran deal. There is also a lot of discussion about Iran’s role in the region.
Some depict Iran as more moderate, a regime the US can work with to reduce tensions. Others see the regime as seeking regional hegemony. Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and drones, and its role in supporting proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, are often a threat to US allies.
The timing of the reports on the killing of Masri creates two converging narratives. First, it provides evidence of the close relationship between the US and Israel and showcases Israel’s capabilities in the region and why it is such a key ally of Washington. That means the relationship between Israel and the US is not just one of Washington supporting Jerusalem; it goes both ways. Israel provides key capabilities in the region for the Americans.
Second, the revelation that al-Qaeda operatives are being hosted in Iran shows that Iran not only works with Sunni extremists against the West; it specifically harbors those who killed Americans. Iran could have ejected these terrorists as part of the Iran deal to show it is moderating. But it did not.
This illustrates what many experts in the region have been saying about Iran: Its threat is not just about the nuclear program but is the sum of all of the threats it poses, including its willingness to work with al-Qaeda.
This bursts the bubble of the simplistic narrative that portrays Iran as only a Shi’ite Islamic theocracy, incapable of working with Sunni jihadists.
Iran is also a cynical country that does everything it can to oppose the US and US allies. It has never altered that course, despite opportunities to do so.
The operation in August revealed that. The timing of the reports on it suggest important ramifications.