Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Al Qods chief Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani traded insults through the pages of the Kuwait’s Al Jarida paper this week.
The general called for a powerful Iranian response to Israel’s air raids, so that Netanyahu would lose the coming election on April 9. The prime minister shot back “Instead of interfering in our elections, Soleimani should look at the state of the Iranian bases he is trying to establish in Syria.
That was the latest round in the verbal duel taking place between Israel and Iran in recent weeks. DEBKA Weekly’s sources have noted that, while striking points, neither side is averse to letting drop sensitive intelligence, ranging from the undercover contacts taking place between them, to their coordination in certain military and diplomatic fields.
Here are some of the revelations uncovered:
1. In the course of its military offensive against Iranian sites in Syria, Israel was wont to tip off the Iranians on targets in time for them to move their officers and men out of harm’s way. This system was so well-oiled that a single codeword served to warn Iranian facilities of the need to evacuate. By averting casualties in this way, Israel also saved itself from major Iranian reprisals.
The IDF operates on the same principle against Palestinian Hamas and Islamic terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. So long as its air strikes hit empty bases, civilian areas are saved from rocket attacks.
This practice was not observed in the IDF’s latest air and cruise missile attacks on Jan. 21 against a large number of Iranian facilities in Syria. And so, Israel crossed one of its unwritten red lines with Iran. (See the lead article in this issue.)
2. In early November, former IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot, revealed, upon launching Operation Northern Shield for destroying Hizballah’s cross-border tunnels from Lebanon, that the operation’s commanders were working to a precise map of the tunnels. He did not say where it came from. However, some sources in the Gulf and Beirut are certain that the map was provided by Iran as a side-swipe against the power struggle taking place in Hizballah. Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has not been seen or heard from in the two months since the IDF operation was launched. According to one report, Tehran was “furious with the exposure of the tunnels and holds Nasrallah accountable for that failure.”
Other sources claim that Nasrallah’s masters in Tehran decided not to put up with the arrogant, independent behavior he has displayed since Hizballah achieved its military successes in Syria – any more than Israel is. The word from Beirut is that Iran has ordered a reshuffle of the Hizballah leadership to replace Nasrallah with more accommodating leaders. 3. This week, former IDF generals and opposition leaders were seriously critical of Netanyahu, who doubles as defense minister, for abandoning Israel’s routine policy of non-admission for attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. They feared that his new openness would make it hard for Iran to hit back hard. Their criticism had the unexpected result of making the general public ask what Israel and Iran had to hide.