In one of his rare media appearances Iranian revolutionary guard IRGC's Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani claimed in a late September interview aired on Iranian state TV that Israel had planned to assassinate him.
Soleimani said that Israel was going to shoot down an aircraft carrying him and Lebanese Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrollah during the 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.
Asked if Soleimani's claim was based on reality, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen told ultra-Orthodox Israeli newspaper Mishapacha on Friday October 11, “with all due respect to his bluster, he has not necessarily committed the mistake yet that would place him on the prestigious list of Mossad’s assassination targets,” the Middle East Monitor quoted him as having told Mishapacha.
Meanwhile, the Times of Israel has quoted Cohen as having said that "Soleimani knows that his assassination is not impossible."
“He 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,” the Times of Israel quoted Cohen as having said.
Characterizing Iran as “absolutely not” an existential threat but “a security challenge,” Cohen said: “Israel is not interested in conflict with Iran… Israel has but one interest: preventing Iran from 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.”
It is not inconceivable that regional players and their intelligence organizations would want to eliminate Soleimani, but Iranian journalists have found him to be a camera-shy shadowy character who is never to be found where he is expected to be.
Usually the news about him are about a week old except when the media have his picture with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at commemoration session's at Khamenei's house.
His picture with Khamenei and Bashar Assad in Tehran during the latter's very brief visit to the Iranian capital were only released an hour after they returned to Damascus and their aircraft landed safely in the Syrian capital.
Preventing a possible assassination of Qassem Soleimani is also a development IRGC intelligence seems to been occupied and even obsessed with.
Last week, IRGC Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb broke the news about what he said was an Arab-Israeli plan for an assassination attempt on Soleimani.
Citing the head of the IRGC's Intelligence Organization Hossein Taeb, IRGC-linked Fars news agency said on October 3 that "three agents on the payroll of foreign governments were arrested for the plot."
The unidentified three had been taken to "neighboring countries," for training and being prepared to assassinate Soleimani during a religious ceremony in February.
"The mercenary terrorist team was supposed to return to the country and blow up a place where Soleimani was supposed to be present using 300-500 kg of explosives," Taeb maintained.
According to Taeb, the assassins planned to dig under a religious venue dedicated by Soleimani’s father and set off an explosion under the building when he was inside, and then trying to deflect blame so that it ignited a sectarian war.
Later, Dadkhoda Salari, the prosecutor of Kerman in southeastern Iran said the three members of a team who were planning to assassinate Qassem Soleimani will be tried soon.
Iranian intelligence officials have on many occasions made unproven claims about crushing terrorist bands but have never offered any evidence and often there has been no trial after similar statements.
On the other hand, media activists in Iran have said Soleimani's interview and the news about the alleged assassination plot, could be publicity stunts to raise Soleimani's profile as a possible candidate for the 2021 Presidential elections, although he has said before the 2017 elections that he prefers to remain a soldier.
Soleimani, 62, who was born in Qanat-e Malek village near Kerman, is considered as one of the few capable commanders of the IRGC enjoying some popularity, but he has failed or was unable to respond to Israeli strikes on his positions in Syria since 2017.