US considered targeting Soleimani for 18 MONTHS, new report reveals
–Following an explosive week between the US and Iran, it has been revealed that the Pentagon secretly discussed targeting Iranian General Qassem Soleimani for 18 months before making the decision to strike.
–As tensions escalated between the two nations, the US had a list of targets in mind in case Iran ever attacked the US. When American civilian contractor Nawres Waleed Hamid was killed when rockets hit the K1 military base in Kirkuk, Iraq on December 27, Washington was ready to act.
After months of tracking Soleimani, the second most powerful man in Iran, the plan to finally strike him was rolled out on January 3, 2020, a move that thrust the US to the brink of war, according to a New York Times report based on interviews with dozens of Trump administration and military officials.
Soleimani was known as a 62-year-old high-flying general and leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was behind proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. He was one of the most ruthless commanders in the region who for years worked in the shadows but emerged in the spotlight following the Arab Spring and the war with the Islamic State. He’s seen as the mastermind behind Iran’s fight for regional dominance.
The US discussed targeting Iranian General Qassem Soleimani for the past 18 months, according to a new report
Surveillance of the shadowy general increased in May and September and culminated in a drone strike that killed him on January 3, 2020
The US discussed targeting Iranian General Qassem Soleimani for the past 18 months, according to a new report. Surveillance of the shadowy general increased in May and September and culminated in a drone strike that killed him on January 3, 2020
The image shows one of the smoldering vehicles struck in a US drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani on January 3 at the Baghdad International Airport
On December 31, when the US embassy in Baghdad was attacked by pro-Iran protesters, a top secret memo started to circulate among US defense officials signed by Robert C. O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, listing out potential targets.
That memo’s most provocative response option was to target specific Iranian officials for death by military strike. Named on that list was General Soleimani and Abdul Reza Shahlai, an Iranian commander in Yemen who helped finance armed groups in the region.
Less dramatic response options were to target an Iranian energy facility and a Revolutionary Guard command-and-control ship used to direct small boats that harass oil tankers in the waters around Iran.
While Soleimani had been on the US radar for some time, surveillance on the shadowy general intensified in May.
At that time tensions with Iran had escalated following attacks on four oil tankers, leading then national security adviser John R. Bolton to ask the military and intelligence agencies to produce new options to stop Iranian aggression. He was presented with the option to kill Soleimani and other leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
On December 31 when the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq was attacked by pro-Iran protesters, a top secret memo started to circulate among US defense officials signed by Robert C. O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, listing out potential targets including General Soleimani. The protest where angry dissenters burned tired in front of the US embassy is pictured above
In September, the US Central Command and Joint Special Operations Command were brought in to plan a possible operation against him, debating targeting Soleimani in Syria or Iraq.
Agents recruited in Syria and Iraq reported on Soleimani’s movements, according to one official.
Officials had discussions for months about targeting Soleimani. They said it would be too challenging to hit him in Iran and debated targeting him in Syria or Iraq.
The US worked on developing agents in seven different entities – the Syrian Army, the Quds Force in Damascus, Hezbollah in Damascus, the Damascus and Baghdad airports and Kataib Hezbollah and Popular Mobilization forces in Iraq to report on his movements.
Surveillance records found that Soleimani flew on a number of airlines and often bought multiple tickets for a trip to throw off people who could be tailing him. He’d be dropped off to his plane at the last moment possible and sit in the front row of business class so he’d be the first one off the plane, according to sources who spoke to the New York Times.
On New Year’s Day he flew to Damascus then drove by car to Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Nasrallah warned him American news media was fixating on him and posting his photograph, saying: ‘This was media and political preparation for his assassination.’
He said Soleimani laughed and said he hoped to die a a martyr and asked Nasrallah to pray that he would.
That same day across the world at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia officials reported a ‘mosaic effect’ – scraps of information that together indicated Soleimani was mobilizing and organizing proxy forces in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq to attack American embassies and bases.
Though there wasn’t concrete evidence of an imminent threat, there was a concerning pattern.
Tracking General Qassem Soleimani
The US considered targeting General Qassem Soleimani, 62, for the past 18 months
In May then national security adviser John R Bolton asked military and intelligence agencies for options to end Iranian aggression. One option was to kill General Soleimani and his surveillance intensified.
In September the US Central Command and Joint Special Operations Command were included to plan a possible operation, targeting the general in either Syria or Iraq
Agents were recruited in seven different groups in the Middle East to track his movements
On December 31 a top secret memo circulates among US defense officials listing out potential targets including Soleimani
Trump chooses to target Soleimani
On January 1, 2020 Soleimani flies to Damascus and heads to Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
On January 3 he flies from Damascus to Baghdad, Iraq and is struck by US drones while driving away from airport
CIA officials determined that the consequences of not striking Soleimani would outweigh waiting around.
Trump agreed with the option to target Soleimani and there was overall agreement among his senior advisers. However, some officials with the Pentagon were shocked that the president chose the most extreme option.
In the end they struck him on January 3 after he disembarked of Cham Wings Airlines Flight 6Q501 that took off from Damascus and landed in Baghdad.
The plane landed at 12.36am and Soleimani disembarked with his entourage first. He was joined by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of several militia groups tied to Iran. In two cars they drove away from the airport while followed by American MQ-9 Reaper drones.
At 12.47pm several missiles fired into the vehicles, sending them up in flames and leaving 10 burnt bodies in their wake.
It’s not precisely clear why he was in Iraq. Some theories say he was there as a part of an attack plot. Others say he was there to reduce tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In the attack 10 people were killed: Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who helped found Kataib Hezbollah, and their aides.
However that same night American forces tried to target another general in Yemen, but failed. The US targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, the Quds Force commander, but failed due to an undisclosed problem with intelligence.
In the aftermath of the attack, while Trump announced the strike with triumph, the rest of the world raced to ease tensions with Iran.
The French and Japanese offered to serve as mediators between the countries – which only annoyed President Trump who reportedly dislikes middle men.
A senior German diplomat sent a text to his Iranian counterpart urging the country to remain calm.
Iranian Revolution supreme leader Ali Khamenei (center) and President Hassan Rouhani (2nd from L) pictured at the funeral of General Qassem Soleimani
President Emmanuel Macron of France reached out to the US and Iran.
‘Macron’s specificity is that he does not approve, but he also does not condemn,’ Michel Duclos, a former French ambassador to Syria said.
Switzerland played a key role in keeping the peace, continuing its role as intermediary between US and Iran since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1980.
Swiss ambassador in Tehran Markus Leitner visited the Iranian Foreign ministry twice, according to a Swiss analyst.
The Americans sent a letter to the Iranians through the Swiss warning that retaliation for the drone strike would trigger further military action by Trump.
Leitner returned to the Foreign Ministry at the end of the day to get the Iranian response.
All the while, Trump had agreed for the US to target other sites that were originally considered in the line of attack against Iran including the oil and gas facility and the command-in-control ship for further retaliation in case Iran responded to the drone strike. Furthermore the US developed plans to conduct a cyber attack to partly disable Iran’s oil and gas sector.
Trump sparked fury when he tweeted he had a list of Iranian targets including culturally important ones. One official said none of the targets were actually cultural.
Mail Online ›January 12, 2020