Zvi Yehezkeli, Channel 13‘s Arab affairs jouralist, on Friday warned that Iran will place Israel on its list of targets due to the US elimination of Revolutionary Guards leader Qassem Soleimani.
Yehezkeli has said several times, during interviews with 103 FM Radio, that Israel should eliminate Soleimani, who was the most powerful Iranian after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself.
“I would hit the head of this terror arm,” he said. And on Thursday night, it happened: Soleimani and six others were killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.
“I’m happy someone listened to my advice,” Yehezkeli told 103 FM on Friday morning. He emphasized: “It wasn’t Israel – it was [US President Donald] Trump who at the end of the day banged on the table and said, ‘No more!’ Soleimani was the one responsible for Iran’s expansion in the Middle East over the past decade. He’s the same person who built entire armies within the countries of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – and he’s the person who is connecting and turning all the Arab countries into a Shiite army. Therefore, it was only expected that someone who wanted to make order would need to start with his head.”
According to Yehezkeli, Soleimani was “the most important political-military figure in Iran after Khamenei himself, if not his equal. The US essentially eliminated Iran’s military and political president at the same time. There’s no question, he’s on the level of Ali Khamenei.”
Yehezkeli also warned that there would be a response from Iran: “The elimination is an event on a scale such as we have not seen in the Middle East for a long time,” he tweeted. “The Iranians are in shock. Soleimani felt very free and easy in Iraq. He did not think the Americans would eliminate him, and he did not take precautions.”
“I believe the Iranians will place us on their list of targets. When and how will it happen? I don’t know. We are entering a long period of waiting and preparation for an Iranian response – and Israel is already preparing for such a reaction. Don’t forget that Soleimani has people who do his will in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – but now the Iranians are only concerned with picking up the pieces, literally and figuratively.”
Such a response, Yehezkeli explained, will not be a response which leads to another response. “There are responses and there are responses. I remind you that [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah was screaming from the rooftops when Israel conducted the drone attack, and at the end of the day he fired at a vehicle which had gone against policies and the issue was closed. The whole question is if Iran wants to close the issue or open the issue. Their story with the US is complicated.”
“I don’t see the Iranians now, without Qassem Soleimani, with their economic situation, going for something grandiose like an all-out war. There will be a response, yes, and the US will be tested. It will be tested for its second response. Eliminating Soleimani was initial, strong, surprising, and dramatic – but the question is how you reinforce the new lines of the new boundary you set. We will wait for the Iranian response, there will certainly be one, that’s clear. Iran will certainly respond.”
However, he added, Iran’s strength is currently at a low.
“There’s something big here, but there’s also something encouraging: Soleimani’s brain is not here. This is the person who advanced the Shiite military project in the Middle East to heights no one can remember – and so they also need to take that into consideration. Provocations here and there we have. They also didn’t avenge the eliminations of [Hezbollah leader Imad Fayez] Mughniyeh or [Hamas founder Ahmed] Yassin. Don’t forget that the Iranians right now are after a few very serious attacks, including the UAV attack in Saudi Arabia, and against US interests. Now the question is if they will fan the flames and where it will lead.”
Regarding whether Israel will be targeted, Yehezkeli said: “I think that we are automatically on the Americans’ side. I’m listening to the Iranian officials who are talking now. The Revolutionary Guards’ military personnel know that maybe there was a sharing of intelligence and that Soleimani was wanted also by the Israeli Mossad. By the way, Israel had many discussions on this issue, which was sometimes compared to attacking the Iranian nuclear reactor – it was that serious.”
“There were reports a few months ago, by the way, that Israel had dug a tunnel under the mosque where Qassem Soleimani’s father would pray, and he was supposed to come to a memorial for him. According to those Iranian reports, 500 kilograms of explosives were supposedly placed under the chair where Soleimani was supposed to sit. Israel also tried to lay hands on him, but in my opinion, Israel didn’t have the courage to do it. We need to remember that Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu has a trauma of eliminations. But Israel did come into the circle, and so we’re on a kind of alert.
“The head of the snake is gone, but it doesn’t kill the whole snake,” he concluded. “There is a different Middle East, one which Qassem Soleimani left for the next decade. This is a Middle East which presents us with challenges – and it’s not for nothing that Mount Hermon’s Visitors Center was closed. Israel knows that we are very close to the Iranians, on our northern border with Syria and even in Gaza, which he also developed. It’s not simple.”