Sunday, August 10, 2003

Mossad Badasses

The following excerpt is from Britain's Sunday Times; be warned that access to the article is restricted for non-UK residents to paying readers only.

Few people would want to be in the shoes of Ghassem Soleimani, an Iranian blamed for terrorist attacks against Jewish targets from Argentina to Israel. His name is said to have been placed at the top of a hit list compiled by Mossad, the feared Israeli secret service.

Soleimani is in Lebanon, where Mossad has struck twice in five months, killing an Al-Qaeda leader and a senior official of Hezbollah, the extremist Shi’ite Muslim group, in separate car bomb attacks.

Soleimani was targeted by Mossad after being linked to the bombing of a a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, in which 85 people died, and to a series of operations against Israelis. The most recent was thwarted last month when soldiers arrested a suicide bomber preparing to blow up a market place in Petah Tikva, a small town near Tel Aviv.

Soleimani is also the head of a group of Iranian commandos in Lebanon known as the Jerusalem Force. It is part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is armed with long-range rockets that could reach targets on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

Meir Dagan, the Mossad chief charged with restoring its reputation for ruthlessness after a series of bungled operations in the late 1990s, has identified Soleimani as his number one target. A source confirmed: “Soleimani is a walking dead man.”

Dagan has reactivated Mossad’s Independence unit, which kills enemies of Israel abroad. Its operations in Lebanon are aimed at ending Iranian support for Palestinian terrorists while a fragile ceasefire holds in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Proof of the danger that Dagan poses to Soleimani came last Saturday. A queue of cars was stuck in the humid southern outskirts of Beirut. A middle-aged driver waited patiently before turning into Hadi Nasrallah Street on his way to work at the Iranian embassy.

It was the last move Ali Hussein Salah made. A 2kg bomb ripped his car apart, leaving the 42-year-old father of six mutilated and charred. One of Soleimani’s most trusted allies had been eliminated.

Less than 300 miles south, in a villa on a hilltop beside the northern approach to Tel Aviv, Dagan was with some colleagues when he received a telephone call. He listened for a moment, said “Well done”, then hung up.

“Another son of a bitch will not celebrate Ramadan this year,” he declared. “Back to work, guys.”