Secretary of State Mike Pompeo forged a friendship with Yossi Cohen, the director of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, when Pompeo was CIA director (January 2017 until April 2018 ), according to a person familiar with their meetings.
They discussed the threat from Iran to both Israel and the U.S.
In an October 2019 interview published in the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Mishpacha, Cohen said a potential Israeli assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was “not impossible” — and Soleimani knew it — Times Of Israel reported.
Iranian media reported in October that Iran had stopped an “Israel-Arab” plot to eliminate Soleimani. Soleimani also claimed that Israeli aircraft targeted him and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
“(Soleimani) knows very well that his assassination is not impossible. His actions are identified and felt everywhere… there’s no doubt the infrastructure he built presents a serious challenge for Israel,” Cohen said.
However, Cohen insisted during the October interview that Israel is not interested in conflict with Iran. “Israel has but one interest,” he said: “To prevent any option of Iran achieving military nuclear capability. We don’t want the regime to collapse, we don’t want revenge against nuclear scientists or to bomb bases in Tehran. In the end, Israel wants to bring Iran to the table and then bring about a deal that locks away any option of military nuclear capability.”
Every option was on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons including a military strike, Cohen said. A military strike would be “a last choice.”
When it comes to Hamas, however, Cohen admits, “There are more than a few assassinations.” These were not vengeful acts, he said, but simply the removal of threats.
Netanyahu views Cohen as a potential political successor, Times Of Israel reported. Cohen, 57, was a former national security adviser under Netanyahu and became Mossad chief in 2016.
Pompeo woke on Tuesday last week to news of a new security threat to his diplomats when demonstrators started throwing molotov cocktails at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Greenlighting the airstrike against Suleimani at the Baghdad airport represents a bureaucratic victory for Pompeo, but it also carries multiple risks including retaliatory assassinations of U.S. personnel around the world and a drawn-out regional war in the Middle East, Washington Post reported.
For Pompeo, the death of U.S. diplomats would be particularly damaging. He was highly critical of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following the 2012 Benghazi killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other U.S. personnel.
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Pompeo first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months ago, according to a senior U.S. official. Israel has supported the Soleimani assassination and Netanyahu praised Trump for “acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively.”
“Rise and Kill First,” a new book by journalist Ronen Bergman, takes a comprehensive look at Israel’s use of state-sponsored killings. Bergman asserts that Israel made at least 2,700 assassination attempts in its 70 years of existence, according to a report in the Independent. The book makes the case that Israel used assassination instead of war, killing six Iranian nuclear scientists, for example, rather than launching a military attack. Bergman also suggests strongly that Israel used radiation poisoning to kill long-time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, an act Israel has consistently denied.
The book’s title, “Rise and Kill First,” comes from the ancient Jewish Talmudic directive, “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” Bergman says a huge percentage of the 1,000 people he interviewed cited that passage in the Talmud as justification for assassinations.