Thu, 23 Jan 2020

Trump deals Israel another huge favour in assassinating Soleimani

By Jay Jackson, Wyoming State News.Net
12 Jan 2020, 09:50 GMT+10

The assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani a little more than week ago has brought the world to the brink of another war.

As a commentator on MSNBC said Saturday, "It only took one assassination to start World War War I."

Coming at a time when Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were working to de-escalate tensions in the region, the United States has taken it on itself to assassinate a government official which it had designated as a terrorist, the world's worst, according to Mr Trump.

What drove the president to personally direct that the assassination be carried out, and why now, is puzzling commentators and countries around the world.

One leader who was not surprised at Trump's action, and only one of two that has praised it, is Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly as he has spoken publicly in the recent past about the lack of response by the U.S. to what he and others have described as Iran's 'bad behaviour.'

"Iran's brazenness in the region is increasing and even getting stronger in light of the absence of a response," Mr Netanyahu told a graduation ceremony of army officers in November.

Soleimani was the most feared opponent of Israel and was the target of an Israeli assassination plot in 2006 according to him, 2008 (an Israeli plot vetoed by the George W. Bush administration), and the latest according to Iran, three months ago.

That latest plot revealed in early October 2019 was described by Iran as an 'Israel-Arab' plan. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, told an annual conference of IRGC commanders that three people had been arrested in connection with the plan.

'Taeb said the plot had been worked on for a number of years and involved blowing up Soleimani at a memorial service for his father during the Muslim holy month of Muharram, which began in early September,' the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

'The assassins planned to dig under a religious site associated with Soleimani's father and set off an explosion under the building when he was inside, and then try to deflect blame so that it ignited an interfaction religious war,' a report in The Times of Israel said.

'The assassins prepared some 500 kilograms to use for the bomb, Taeb revealed. He did not name any specific Arab country as being involved in the alleged plan.'

In the same report Soleimani said he, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh left an operations center in Beirut during an Israeli bombardment at the time of the 2006 Lebanon War, and were tracked by drones, which he said they eventually managed to evade.

'Mughniyeh was later assassinated, in 2008 by a car bomb attributed to Israel and the CIA,' the Times of Israel report said.

Nasrallah, last Sunday in a service mourning Soleimani's death, claimed the U.S. was doing the bidding of Israel in carrying out the assassination.

"Israel wanted to assassinate the Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Syria, but it couldn't or didn't dare. It turned to the United States, which did it openly," Nasrallah said, according to a statement attributed to him in The Times of Israel. "Israel saw Soleimani as the most dangerous man since the state was established, since he encircled the country with missiles," Nasrallah said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu at the start of the Israeli Cabinet meeting the same day (Sunday) said: "Qasem Soleimani brought about the death of many American citizens and many other innocents in recent decades and at present. Soleimani initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and beyond."

"President Trump is deserving of all esteem for taking determined, strong and quick action. I would like to reiterate Israel fully stands alongside the U.S. in the just struggle for security, peace and self-defense," he said.

Netanyahu was in constant contact with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo through last week, and according to official attributions, the discussions were all about Iran.

It was obvious in the hours before the attack in Baghdad that the Israeli premier was in the loop, as he foreshadowed events in a statement he made on Thursday at Ben-Gurion International Airport prior to boarding a plane for Athens. He said, "very, very dramatic things are happening," in the region.

"Moreover, we know that our region is stormy; very, very dramatic things are happening in it. We are alert and are monitoring the situation. We are in continuous contact with our great friend the U.S., including my conversation yesterday afternoon. I want to make one thing clear: We fully support all of the steps that the U.S. has taken as well as its full right to defend itself and its citizens," he said.

Earlier in the week on the Monday, the prime minister's office said: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and commended him on the important U.S. action against Iran and its proxies in the region." At this stage the plot was well in the works. The following day the decision to assassinate was made.

Pompeo phoned Netanyahu again on Wednesday night, the night before the assassination, ostensibly to thank him for Israel's support in efforts to combat Iran and after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

Following the assassination, on the Thursday night, President Trump phoned Mr. Netanyahu. "Following the tensions in the region, U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Thursday evening January 9 about "critical regional issues," The Jerusalem Post reported.

The conversation focused on recent developments regarding Iran. In a statement, the White House said the leaders discussed "critical issues regarding the region and inter-state relations."

Following the assassination, Mr Netanyahu said on Friday: "Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right. Qasem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks."

"President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively," he said.

"Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense."

On Saturday Pompeo was back on the phone to Netanyahu.

"Netanyahu and I just spoke and underscored the importance of countering Iran's malign influence and threats to the region. I am always grateful for Israel's steadfast support in defeating terrorism," Pompeo said in a tweet.

A statement from the U.S. State Department said the two discussed the situation in Iraq, where Soleimani was killed, and Iran's "continued provocations and threats to the region."

NBC News reported on Saturday Israelis intelligence through the Mossad had assisted in tracking Soleimani so was actually a participant in the slaying.

Much of President Trump's foreign policy has centered around meeting Israeli aspirations. The U.S. president has recognised Jerusalem as Israel's 'eternal and undivided' capital; has relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposed extraordinarily harsh sanctions on the country, which have all but destroyed the country, which is Israel's main enemy. In March last year President Trump recognised the disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel; he has curtailed financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority; he authorized passage of the National Defense Authorization Act., allocating an additional $550 million to Israel; he altered the sale of F-35 warplanes to Turkey but ensured Israel would take delivery of its order; he has continued the U.S. policy of unconditional support for the Jewish state at the United Nations; he withdrew U.S. forces from Syria in 2018, an action championed and applauded by Mr Netanyahu. He appointed Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, who provided unwavering support for Israel at the international body. Trump has declared Judaism is no longer just a religion, but has designated it a race and a nationality.

Wayne Allyn Root, a regular guest on the Fox News Channel, last year called President Trump, "The King of the Jews."

"I stand by my words. I'm proud of my words. I was right "on the money," he said in a piece on Newsmax three weeks ago on 20 December 2019.

Whatever the reason for the Trump presidency to be so heavily invested in Israel is unclear. It could be the $100 million donated by Sheldon Adelson, which according to a report in The New Yorker was the motivation for the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Adelson is a devout backer of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has attempted to distance Israel from the events of last week, despite his finger prints being all over them.

"The assassination of Soleimani isn't an Israeli event but an American event. We were not involved," he reportedly said, according to ministers who spoke with Israeli media, as reported by The Daily Beast.

"Our assessment is that the United States informed Israel about this operation in Iraq, apparently a few days ago," Barak Ravid, a journalist and commentator with deep sources in the Israeli security establishment, said on Channel 13.

An Israeli army officer with knowledge of Israeli military assessments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to speak to reporters, told the Los Angeles Times that the attack on Suleimani "did not come as a surprise."

Most Israeli politicians have supported the assassination . One dissenter, Ofer Cassif, who represents the majority Arab Joint List party cautioned the Knesset from "popping open bottles of champagne."

"You don't understand that Suleimani's killing may lead to an attack against Israel," he said. If American bullying leads to loss of Israeli life, it will be on the hands of Trump and his fellow offender Netanyahu," Cassif said in an NBC News report.

Mr Netanyahu was indicted on three criminal counts of corruption in November. On the eve of Soleimani's assassination, he formally requested immunity from the Knesset. In March he goes to the polls for the third time in a year.

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