EXCLUSIVE: Former military chief: Israel convinced US that Soleimani was ‘immediate threat’

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EXCLUSIVE: Former military chief: Israel convinced US that Soleimani was ‘immediate threat’

American airstrikes killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard leader Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. Iran still threatens revenge calling it a "terror" attack on an Iranian official.

Israel convinced the United States that Islamic Revolutionary Guard leader Qassem Soleimani posed an “immediate threat” to American soldiers, former Israeli military intelligence chief Tamir Hayman has told Jewish News in an exclusive interview. 

Three years ago, American airstrikes killed IRGC leader Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, leading to a near-all out war between Tehran and Washington. Iran still threatens with avenging the assassination, calling it a “terror” attack on an Iranian official.

Hayman has previously admitted that Israel provided intelligence to the U.S. about Soleimani, but his wording “immediate threat” is the same as what U.S. President Trump used when he took responsibility for the attack, suggesting it was that exact piece of Israeli intelligence that led to the decision to assassinate the IRGC leader.

“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump told reporters at the time.

After Soleimani’s militias had helped defeat Islamic State the U.S. was “standing in his way because he wanted to control the Middle East. So his focus changed from Islamic State to US presence in the region,” Hayman said.

Speculations over Israel’s alleged role in the assassination quickly spread, due to Soleimani’s campaign to arm and supply Israeli enemies in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria.

“Israel convinced the US of Soleimani’s malign activities against Americans. The US was mainly focused on fighting terror, not Iran. We supplied the intelligence and shared analysis and over a long period of time they were eventually convinced that Soleimani was an immediate threat to American lives and its strategic posture in the Middle East,” Hayman said.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Khamenei, November 23, 2015 in Tehran, Iran.

The notorious IRGC leader was “unique” and had “huge amounts of leadership,” according to Hayman: “He could stand on a hill in Syria and pinpoint to the militias how to conduct the strategy he had designed and approved with the Supreme Leader a few hours before.”

“In 2016 he elaborated on a grand master plan on how to ensure that Syria would become a second Lebanon. That there would be a Hezbollah 2.0, transfer of Shiites into Syria, and that he would control the Syrian government. He hade similar plans about Iraq and Yemen,” he added.

The former military intelligence chief argued that the assassination of Soleimani made the Middle East more stable: “When he disappeared, you still had “builders” on the ground but there was no vision”

New nuclear deal

Hayman, who served as military intelligence chief from 2018 to 2022, explained the steps world powers, as well as Israel, should take to meet the immediate challenge of Iran’s rapid advancement of its nuclear program.

  • Acknowledge that the strategy up until now “has failed” in order to re-design a new one.
  • Convince the Europeans to leave the deal.
  • Negotiate a new deal, based on “more for more” – in other words more sanction reliefs in return for more promises not to advance nuclear program.
  • Israel must coordinate a military option with the U.S.

As for the a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, Hayman warned that a unilateral military strike by Israel might spill into a regional war, and that aligning with the US is therefore crucial.

“A regional war would be the worst case scenario but it’s still probable. You don’t gamble on that without a profound support from the superpower (US).”

Israel has warned repeatedly that it is preparing a unilateral strike on Iran as a last option if Tehran doesn’t halt its nuclear program. However, several intelligence and military experts have previously argued that Israel lacks the military capability to carry out an effective strike.

American B-52 bombers, which could effectively penetrate Iran’s underground nuclear reactors, as well as American made refuelling tankers for its air force are among the capabilities Israel lacks, according to experts.

We supplied the intelligence and shared analysis and over a long period of time they were eventually convinced that Soleimani was an immediate threat to US lives and its strategic posture in the Middle East

Israel signed a £‎781million deal with Boeing in September last year for four refuelling tankers, expected to arrive in 2025. But some experts have warned that Iran is already a de-facto nuclear state, given the short breakout time to develop nuclear weapons.

“We need a few necessary capabilities from the US that might deter Iran from going all the way (developing nuclear weapons) and that will enhance our efficiency. Some sort of ammunition or operational element, without going into too many details. That could lead Iran to conclude that a military strike is just around the corner,” Hayman said.

Israeli and American fighter jets, as well as B-52 bombers, have conducted a number of joint drills in recent years, in what is seen as a simulation for an attack on Iran. The most recent drill took place last week.

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