Israeli Intel Helped the United States to Take Out Soleimani, Report Says

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People display a red crossed portrait of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani outside the European Council headquarters in Brussels, January 10, 2020.
People display a red crossed portrait of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani outside the European Council headquarters in Brussels, January 10, 2020. Credit: Francisco Seco/AP

Israeli intelligence helped the United States to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in near Baghdad, NBC reported on Friday.

According to the report, informants at the Damascus international airport tipped off the CIA about the time Soleimani's plane took off for Baghdad, while Israel confirmed the intelligence provided to the Americans.

According to The New York Times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before Soleimani was assassinated, being the only leader in the region that was informed about the operation.

As the Cham Wings Airbus A320 carrying Soleimani landed outside the Iraqi capital, CIA agents at the Baghdad International Airport confirmed the exact location of the plane, the NBC report said.

Then, U.S. drones armed with four Hellfire missiles, moved into position in the Iraqi airspace, fully controlled by American forces.

In a bid to unravel the chain of events that led to Soleimani's killing, NBC interviewed two sources directly familiar with the details of the operation that took out the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, as well as other senior officials who were informed about it.

Iraqi authorities are currently holding four people suspected of aiding the U.S. – two Baghdad airport employees and two Cham Wings airline workers, who are believed to be part of a broader network that provided information about Soleimani to the United States. The authorities suspect that the four informed the CIA about Soleimani's arrival in Iraq on the night he was killed.  

In addition, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday that their country carried out a secret operation in Yemen that targeted, but failed to kill, an Iranian military official last week. 

The strike was carried out on the same day that the United States struck Soleimani, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The timing could suggest that the United States had sought to take out a broader swathe of the Iranian military leadership when it killed Soleimani, citing an imminent threat from him.

The Pentagon declined comment on the failed strike in Yemen, first reported by the Washington Post.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United States killed Soleimani because "they were looking to blow up our embassy."

Trump said the United States also carried out the strike because of a rocket attack on a U.S. military base in Iraq by an Iran-backed militia in December that killed a U.S. contractor, which U.S. officials believe Soleimani had a role in orchestrating.

Asked about Trump's remarks on the plot to blow up the Baghdad embassy, a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted Soleimani had orchestrated protests at the embassy and acknowledged there had been such plotting to blow up the embassy.

The official declined to provide details on the U.S. intelligence.

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