The US military tried, but failed, to take out another senior Iranian commander on the same day that an airstrike killed the Revolutionary Guard’s top general, officials in Washington said Friday.
The officials said a military airstrike by special operations forces targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a high-ranking commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps but the mission was not successful. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a classified mission.
Officials said both Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Shahlai were on approved military targeting lists, which indicates a deliberate effort by the US to cripple the leadership of Iran’s Quds force, which has been designated a terror organisation by the US.
The officials would not say how the mission failed.
A US drone strike on January 3 killed Soleimani shortly after he landed at Baghdad International Airport.
Officials in the Donald Trump administration officials have justified the killing as an act of self-defence, saying he was planning military acts that threatened large numbers of US military and diplomatic officials in the Middle East.
Iran, however, called the attack an act of terrorism, and on January 8 it launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq that house US and coalition forces. No-one was killed in that retaliation.
Trump issued an executive order adding additional US sanctions yesterday to an already long list his administration had imposed, aiming to force Iran to accept a new agreement that would curb its nuclear programme and halt support for militant groups throughout the Middle East.
Washington promised “appropriate action” yesterday in response to its assessment that an Iranian missile was responsible for downing a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran on Wednesday. The Iranian government has denied playing a role in the killing of all 176 people on board the Boeing 737.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, directly pinned the blame on Iran, after Canadian, Australian and British leaders announced similar intelligence conclusions, saying “we do believe it is likely that that plane was shot down by an Iranian missile.”
Tehran has been facing mounting pressure to allow a “credible” investigation into the crash.
“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Iran’s civil aviation chief Ali Abedzadeh said.