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The Future (?): Qasem Suleimani was targeted and killed


  • Originally published on my previous website, posted 9 August 2020
Pre-text: I wrote this draft/piece on January 7, 2018. It was supposed to be published as a commentary on the website of the Initiative for the Study of Asymmetric Conflict and Counterterrorism (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth). But times were quite hectic. This weekend, as I decided to do some cleaning up in my PC, I rediscovered it.

As we all know by now, Suleimani was indeed targeted and killed, but on January 3, 2020, by the United States.

The December 2017 publication of the Kuwaiti newspaper, al-Jarida, may have provided us a glimpse into the future. Is it only a matter of time until a news headline will declare: “Suleimani was targeted and killed!”(?) The al-Jarida’s publication related to a mutual agreement between the U.S. and Israel that the death of Suleimani would be beneficial for both countries. Considering the Israeli-Iranian conflict, its recent developments, and Israel’s history of targeted killings, it is not unreasonable that we would see – possibly, in the relatively close future – the targeted killing of Suleimani.

According to al-Jarida, the U.S. gave Israel “green light” to kill Suleimani. This was based on a source who also claimed that three years ago, Israel was close to killing Suleimani. However, the Obama administration foiled the operation by warning the Iranians. It may had been done as Obama was worried that the targeted killing of Suleimani would hamper achieving an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program (Surkes, 2018). Additionally, Politico recently published how Obama thwarted D.E.A. operations against Hezbollah’s infrastructure in America, as he was concerned that it too may obstruct securing an agreement with Iran (Meyer, 2017). According to al-Jarida’s publication, however, the Trump administration “sees eye to eye” with Israel regarding Suleimani; both countries believe the death of Suleimani would serve their interests (Surkes, 2018).

Qasem Suleimani is a Major General, commander and leader of Iran’s elite Quds force for over fifteen years. He gained a vast military experience since his participation in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and until today. As Iran’s intervention to save Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, deepened, Suleimani became the mastermind who orchestrated multiple forces such as the Syrian military, Hezbollah and Shiite militias. He proved himself time and time again as a highly capable individual (Filkins, 2013).

Iran’s Quds force serves as its tip of the spear in exporting the Iranian Islamic Revolution to the world (Filkins, 2013). Israel continues to feel their activities and influence via Hezbollah from the north (Byman, 2011) and various terrorist organizations and activities in the Gaza Strip (Yaari, 2015) and the West Bank (Berger, 2018). For example, the Iranians provided Hezbollah with drones which the organization controls from Damascus’ area. These were sometimes flown close to Israel. Israel felt it had to respond, as happened in September 19, 2017, when it fired Patriot missiles in order to bring down a drone (Harel, Shpigel & Khoury, 2017; Cohen, 2016).

Tensions rise as Iranian proxies continue to gain control over Syrian territory, especially over southern Syria and the Syrian Golan Heights area bordering with Israel. A serious debate takes place in Israel regarding the settlement of hostile forces across the Syrian side of the border. Israel worries that Hezbollah or any other Iranian proxy would settle on its border with Syria (Kranish, 2017).

Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu, referred to the issue of Iranian military establishment in Syria. He stated Israel would not allow the Iranians “to gain a foothold in Syria” (Corera, 2017). That said, it appears Israel felt words were not enough to convey this message to Iran. Perhaps statements alone were assessed as not compelling enough, not expressing the level of seriousness of Israeli officials over the issue. In part, it may explain one of the recent counter actions Israel took. On November 2017, the BBC published an article based on information received by a “Western Intelligence source“. The information was about an Iranian establishment of a military camp on Syrian soil. The camp was located 50 kilometers (31 miles) away from the Israeli border (Corera, 2017). It soon followed (December 2017) that the camp was attacked, more likely than not, by Israel (BBC, 2017).

The question is, will we see the same pattern as happened after the BBC’s publication also with the al-Jarida publication? The message to Suleimani and to Iran was clear, but will we see in the relatively near future another session of Israeli targeted killings against Iranian government personnel? Perhaps even Suleimani himself? Is this Israel’s new way of making bold statements?

Moreover, it is worth remembering that it would not be unprecedented for neither countries (Israel/U.S.), alone or in a joint operation, to target and kill high value targets in the enemy’s territory. For example, the 2008 joint CIA and Mossad targeted killing which killed Imad Mughniyah in Damascus (Raviv, 2015).

Furthermore, a targeted killing of a prominent figure such as Suleimani has its advantages, and Israel did claim it benefited from the targeted killings of its enemy’s prominent figures and leaders in the past (Byman, 2011).

Hence, such a future targeted killing operation should not be of a surprise if it occurs. Bearing in mind the above, only time will tell whether or not Suleimani will be targeted and killed.


[Listed according to first appearance]

Sue Surkes (January 1, 2018). Kuwaiti report: US gives Israel go-ahead to kill powerful Iranian general. The Times of Israel. Available at:

Josh Meyer (2017). The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook. Politico. Available at:

Dexter Filkins (September 30, 2013). The Shadow Commander. The New Yorker. Available at:

Byman, D. L. (2011). A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Yaari, E. (2015). Replacing Hamas: Iran’s New Proxy In Gaza. Foreign Affairs. Available at:

Yotam Berger (January 3, 2018). Iranian Intelligence Operating in West Bank, Israel’s Shin Bet Says. Haaretz. Available at:

Amos Harel, Noa Shpigel & Jack Khoury (September 19, 2017). Israel Shoots Down Iranian-made Hezbollah Drone Over Syria Border. Haaretz. Available at:

Gili Cohen (July 17, 2016) Israel Unsuccessfully Tries to Intercept Drone That Breached Its Airspace. Haaretz. Available at:

Shoshana Kranish (November 26, 2017). Report: Israel Vows to Destroy Iranian Positions Within 40 KM of Syrian Border. The Jerusalem Post. Available at:

Gordon Corera. (November 10, 2017). Iran building permanent military base in Syria – claim. BBC. Available at:

BBC (December 2, 2017). Israel targets Syrian military base – Syrian state TV. BBC. Available at:

Dan Raviv (February 15, 2015). Mideast assassination plot a secret, until it’s time to take credit. CBS News. Available at: