Report: Obama Administration Stopped Israel From Assassinating Soleimani in 2015
When President Donald Trump gave the order to kill Iran's Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani, he not only made an arguably proportionate response to the invasion of the U.S. Embassy this week but he also reversed a policy of the Obama administration. According to a report from 2018, Israel was "on the verge" of assassinating Soleimani in 2015, but Obama's officials foiled the plan. In fact, they reached out to Iran with news of Israel's plans.
The Trump administration, on the other hand, gave Israel a green light to assassinate Soleimani, according to a January 1, 2018 report from the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida. The paper quoted a source in Jerusalem as saying that "there is an American-Israeli agreement" that Soleimani is a "threat to the two countries' interests in the region." According to Haaretz, Al-Jarida is generally assumed to be a platform for the Israeli government to disseminate its message to other Middle Eastern governments.
According to the report, the agreement between Israel and the U.S. came three years after Washington thwarted an Israeli attempt to kill the Iranian general.
"The report says Israel was 'on the verge' of assassinating Soleimani three years ago, near Damascus, but the United States warned the Iranian leadership of the plan, revealing that Israel was closely tracking the Iranian general," Haaretz reported.
The incident "sparked a sharp disagreement between the Israeli and American security and intelligence apparatuses regarding the issue." That sounds like an understatement.
President Barack Obama frequently snubbed Israel, considered by many to be America's best ally in the Middle East. Yet the news that the Obama's administration prevented Israel from assassinating the Quds Force leader seems particularly significant, since the Obama administration also kept a list of approximately 500 American soldiers who were murdered by Iranian IEDs. Since the Quds Force spearheads Iran's operations outside the Islamic Republic, Soleimani would arguably be responsible for all of those deaths.
When Trump finally gave the order to kill the Quds Force leader, it came after multiple attacks against Americans and American facilities in Iraq — attacks that arguably traced back to Soleimani himself.
The Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kata'ib Hezbollah began the escalating tensions with a rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base on December 27. That attack killed a U.S. contractor and left many American and Iraqi personnel wounded. According to the Pentagon, Soleimani ordered that attack.
In response, America launched airstrikes against the militia, killing 25 militiamen. In retaliation, the militiamen stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, invading American soil. The Pentagon claimed that Soleimani "approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week."
Killing Soleimani is a powerful response to the embassy attack, an attack that arguably constituted an act of war.
According to the Pentagon, "General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more."
Even the Democrats who faulted Trump for ordering the airstrikes still admitted that Soleimani was a horrible foe of the U.S.
While former Vice President Joe Biden attacked Trump for tossing "a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox," he admitted that "no American will mourn Qassem Soleimani's passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. He supported terror and sowed chaos." Yet the former vice president still faulted Trump for "a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region."
"Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted Thursday. "Our priority must be to avoid another costly war."
If the Pentagon is correct and Soleimani orchestrated the invasion of the U.S. Embassy, the airstrike against him is proportionate. If war comes, it will be the fault of Iran, not Trump.
It will also be the fault of the Obama administration, which thwarted Israel's attempt to stop Soleimani five years ago. How many Americans have died because the Obama administration prevented Israel from carrying out this hit?
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.