Former Mossad chiefs: Iranian retaliation unlikely before Biden sworn in

Besides political considerations, Iran has also been much weakened by the American assassination of Qassem Soleimani a year ago, they said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Three top former Mossad intelligence officials said Sunday that an Iranian retaliation for the assassination of one of its top generals a year ago is unlikely to occur before the January 20 inauguration of Joe Biden as the new president of the United States. It is also not an easy task to accomplish, they said in a report published Monday in The Jerusalem Post.

Sunday marked the first anniversary of the American drone strike that killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in a car outside Baghdad’s airport. Iran immediately vowed revenge, but so far the most harm it has managed to cause is the injury of about a dozen American soldiers in a missile attack by terror proxies on two bases in Iraq two weeks after Soleimani’s death.

Former national security council head Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland told the Jerusalem Press Club that although Iran certainly feels it has to retaliate, it has “no interest today in resuming a large-scale confrontation with anyone, especially not with the U.S. in the next two weeks before the transition of the presidency. So I don’t think anything dramatic will happen in the next few days or hours just because it is the anniversary of the death.”

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Eiland is today a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), which published an analysis shortly after the disputed American elections in November regarding Tehran’s intentions with a possible Biden administration. It pointed to the short time between the inauguration and Iran’s own presidential elections in June, noting that President Hassan Rouhani would like to improve the economic condition of the country to boost his chances before the elections.

The report said that Rouhani has stated that he will do whatever it takes to remove the sanctions imposed on Iran. An attack on American interests or on those of its closest ally in the region would seemingly be counter-productive to attaining that goal.

Shabtai Shavit, who served in the Mossad most of his life before heading the agency some 30 years ago, cited the mullahs’ patience and the weakness of Soleimani’s replacement as reasons for Iran’s reticence in acting to commemorate one of the top men in their regime.

“The Iranians’ patience is never-ending,” he told the daily. In addition, the deputy chosen to step into Soleimani’s shoes, Esmail Ghaani, “isn’t at a level even close to the same capabilities and importance and managerial ability.”

Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Yatom, who ran the Mossad between 1999 and 2001, agreed that the Quds Force, which is responsible for much of the mayhem in the world caused by Iran’s terror proxies, has been much weakened by the assassination.

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It was “a harsh blow to both morale and actual operations…the Quds Force is still licking its wounds,” he said.

The inability to hit either Israeli or American targets in any significant way for a full year proves the debilitation of both the IRGC and the Quds Force, he added.

Meanwhile, in a Lebanese event Sunday memorializing the assassination, the head of one of Iran’s most important proxies scoffed at the idea that Iran could not, or would not, retaliate by itself.

“Iran is a strong country…. If it will want to attack, it doesn’t need to rely on others,” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said, adding, “Iran does not need its proxies, its friends and allies. It will respond in the right place and time and however it wants.”