Iran's strategy to kill Knucklehead - The Atlantic

Iran’s strategy to kill Knucklehead – The Atlantic

On January 3, 2020, the US killed Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport. In an instant, the most powerful Iranian soldier of his generation was reduced, along with his carpool comrades, to smoldering chunks of flesh surrounded by the mangled parts of an SUV. The operation is not over yet. The rocket-sent message was followed, a former US intelligence official told me, by a verbal message that looked like a love note attached to a box of chocolates. The official who worked on Soleimani’s portfolio and asked to remain anonymous so he could speak freely did not see the message, but says it was calculated to threaten, appease and prevent an uncontrolled escalation. He summed it up: The killing of Soleimani is an isolated incident. This is not the start of a new campaign. But if you respond – and retaliation is defined as harming at least one U.S. citizen anywhere – we will hit you harder than you hit us. You will lose every round. Your only decision is how many rounds we have, and how much you want to be humiliated.

Although Iran vowed revenge and shelled a US base in Iraq’s Anbar province a few days later, it appears to have taken the valentine seriously. (No one was killed in the Anbar strike. However, Iran tested the limits of the threat: more than 100 U.S. service members were later found to have suffered neurological effects from the blasts.) But three incidents in the past six weeks suggest Iran is poised for another round, this time with new, more amateurish tactics.

  • On July 29, a man with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle was detained after hiding on the Brooklyn doorstep of the most famous Iranian dissident in America, writer Masih Alinejad. It was Khalid Mehdiyev from Yonkers. The FBI thwarted a separate Iranian plot against her last year; this included her being kidnapped and taken to Iran via Venezuela. She told me that the FBI had warned her, “They wanted to kill you this time.” She says she received a phone call from current National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan two days after the July incident to warn that this second attempt might not be the last and underline the government’s commitment to holding Iran accountable. “It is clear to them that this is Iran,” she said. (Sullivan did not respond to requests for comment.)
  • On August 10, the FBI uncovered the perpetrator. a complaint against Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps member Shahram Poursafi for offering someone in the US cryptocurrencies for the murder of former national security adviser John Bolton. He asked the killer, whom he met online, to kill Bolton on the second anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination. Bolton told CNN he was embarrassed by the low price on his head: just $300,000 compared to the steep million Poursafi suggested he could pay for former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • August 12 New Jersey man stabbed author Salman Rushdie to death to the face, neck and abdomen at an event in upstate New York. This was reported by the mother of Hadi Matara. daily mail that a few years ago he went to the homeland of his ancestors in Lebanon and returned angry because she did not raise him strictly in the Shiite faith. On social media, Matar is reported to have posted photos of Iran’s leaders, including current leader Ali Khamenei and his predecessor Ruhollah Khomeini, who sentenced Rushdie to death in 1989 for writing the lyrics. satanic verses. Iran’s official media practically begged for credit for their government. Newspapers noted this and occasionally mentioned Soleimani. One particularly ominous photo in Jam-e Jam showed Rushdie with devil horns, pointed ears, and an empty wrinkled eye socket where his eye should have been.

Afshon Ostovar, a professor at the Naval Graduate School, told me that after the assassination of Soleimani, Iran’s military and intelligence services are obsessed with proving that they, too, can kill high-ranking officials in hostile countries. “They desperately want some form of revenge,” Ostovar said. “But these secret things, like the US assassination of Soleimani or the Israeli assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is something they just haven’t mastered.” Instead they have tried to as well as failed operate overseas, Ostovar says, and every failure reminds them of their weakness. Killing Bolton or Pompeo, the second target in the Bolton plot, would restore confidence in their status on the international assassination scene.

But even assuming a strong connection to Iran, these three recent cases do not demonstrate that he can kill with the same skill and agility as the Americans and Israelis. (It is widely believed that Fakhrizade’s assassination was carried out remotely by assassin robots, who self-destructed on the spot after completing their mission.) Plots to kill Bolton, Alinejad and Rushdie are not even as sophisticated as Mykonos a 1992 Berlin case involving trained operatives, not freelancers, in a mob-style restaurant murder.

These plots may be more reminiscent of the Islamic State attacks in 2015, many of which involved little more than moral support from ISIS headquarters in Raqqa. One of the Islamic State’s greatest strategic innovations over its decrepit predecessor, al-Qaeda, was that it realized that it didn’t need showy, costly plots like 9/11 and that it could terrorize much cheaper by encouraging boobies. Jihadists abroad strike and run. infidels use knives and rented trucks. There was no need to train the assassins and provide them with false identities or diplomatic cover. One could simply use volunteers or cheap contract labor, a hired killer.

These proxy transactions likely reflect the limits of what Iran can do. They could also represent Iran testing the valentine wire to see what it can do without retaliation. (And not for the first time. As mentioned, the troops at the Anbar base sustained permanent injuries.) Alinejad told me that the Iranians were abroad. already know that in Turkey, Germany and even Canada, Iran’s power is great enough to threaten the lives of its enemies. Now Iran may be trying to show that it can strike Americans in the United States as well.

The Biden administration is not powerless here. Escalation is not the only option. He considers nuclear deal with the Iranian regime preferable to no deal, and a deal is likely to be set back years by any assassination of a US official, even a retired one from a now-out-of-favor administration. (All of which raises the question: how much does Iran want a deal at all?) The appropriate response to a new assassination campaign would be to condition on any agreement that was not in the agreement under President Barack Obama: Iran’s renunciation of international terrorist operations. Otherwise, in light of these recent cases, any compromise with Iran will look like a sweet deal, box of chocolates or not.

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