Leave Iran to the Americans

The removal of Iranian IRGC Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an efficient, limited action by the US on January 3, was a praiseworthy move.

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani pray near the coffin of Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, last week. (photo credit: REUTERS)
IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani pray near the coffin of Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, last week.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The removal of Iranian IRGC Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an efficient, limited action by the US on January 3, was a praiseworthy move. Iran was taken by surprise and astonished by the accuracy and the detailed intelligence, as well as the perfect execution of the operation by the US.
Perhaps Iran had been rattled. In recent years, especially since the election of US President Donald Trump, we became accustomed to an ever-increasing gap between the fierce, aggressive rhetoric used by Trump and the manner in which it was executed. Such, for instance, were the first exchanges between the US and North Korea. Coated with menace, they gave much credit to the impression that soon the president would forcibly place Kim Jong Un in a slightly humbler position than the one the North Korean leader is used to.
In reality, ever since the two leaders embarked on this course the North Korean leader became an object of appreciation, almost adulation, for the American president. With the exception of arranging frequent meetings between the two men it seems nothing serious is worrying the US about North Korea’s actions. Allegedly, that country continues to develop its nuclear capability and pose a potential threat to the stability enjoyed in that part of the world.
Yet it is possible that American restraint is wiser than the president’s rhetoric. North Korea is a problematic and dangerous regime and America is completely right to handle it firmly with unyielding persistence. Despite the declarations made by Kim Jung Un, the ballistic firing of rockets every few months and the ongoing development of its nuclear program, does not cause South Korea to lose sleep, let alone the US.
I say this without ignoring even for a moment the fact it was North Korea that aided Syria in the construction of a nuclear reactor near our homeland. We destroyed that reactor without hesitation; we exposed to the world the extent of the North Korean involvement in its construction and taught its aggressive leaders an unpleasant lesson.
Despite this, I think president Trump is wise to not reduce the gap between his threats and possible actions which might end in a violent confrontation. From extensive discussions I have held with South Koreans, I gather that they, too, believe there is a wide gap between the nuclear posturing employed by North Korea and the extent of the threat, which could cause an earthquake in that part of the world.
It is possible that South Korean leaders such as the current president and heads of industry in that prosperous economy, think that the key to change the current relationship with their northern neighbor is sensitive, step-by-step economic cooperation. Perhaps this hope is unfounded. It is difficult for me to judge, yet life teaches us that it is not a sin to be suspicious and restraint is not a sign of weakness.
UNLIKE THE situation in Southeast Asia, the elimination of Soleimani was well-timed and its expected outcomes, as far as I can see, are positive. Trump, perhaps, surprised even himself. While it is clear the operation was put together days before it was carried out and, in all likelihood, a long time before the IRGC raided the US Embassy building in Baghdad in late December. The lethal and rapid reaction of the US was an important reminder to all regional powers that American might is still considerable.
If anyone had the notion that American restraint can be exploited, or the recent presidential decision to withdraw US Army forces from the region means America lost its ability to carry out violence without much talk, they were proven to be rash and irresponsible.
Soleimani was able to out-fox our own Israeli leaders and introduce Iranian forces into Syria, thus gaining a means to pressure this country, and he lost all sense of proportion and was punished, alongside Iran. Their loss is our gain. One of our most violent, dangerous and sophisticated foes was removed from the ring. The man was without equals in the current Iranian leadership, and it is difficult to see an heir spring up to rival his skill in the near future.
My hope is that Israel will not be tempted and also lose a sense of its relative proportion in the world.
Our own Israeli fight against Iran must go on. Iranian forces stationed in Syria are something Israel cannot put up with. Such a presence must be blocked, reduced and forced to pull out. Yet I do not suggest arrogant actions that might lead an already humiliated Iran, grieving over Soleimani, to pick up arms against us.
Now is the exact moment to warn against a calculated Israeli move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing the abyss due to his situation, might be tempted to use the presence of Iranian forces in Syria – which he himself allowed to be formed in the first place by his lack of actions – and orchestrate a violent burst between the two nations.
Israel has every right to act to push Iran out of Syria, but not a few weeks before elections. A prime minister of a caretaker government who is behaving like a criminal on the run without the backing of a majority in parliament cannot lead this nation into a military skirmish, even if at the end of the day one is unavoidable.
Israel enjoys various means to make the Iranians regret their Syrian adventure. We have sophisticated means and a wealth of experience to enable us to gradually reduce the threat we are currently facing.
There is one thing I suggest not to do. There is absolutely no reason to brag or boast in international forums, or threaten Tehran. There is no gain in provoking Iran now into a violent clash, even if a moment will come when such a conflict is bound to take place.
I have said so in the past. I am saying so again today. At the end of the day, Israel must act with wisdom, courage and strength; to act, not to threaten, to strike the enemy, not to talk.
The writer was Israel’s 12th prime minister.