The United States launched a second strike the night that Major General Qassem Soleimani was killed, reports The Washington Post. The target was Iranian financier Abdul Reza Shahlai and the strike took place in Yemen. The attack was unsuccessful, unlike the assault against Soleimani.
Shahlai, like Soleimani, was a key commander in the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The fact that the United States had launched what appeared to be a two-pronged attack against two such senior members of the Quds Force has some raising questions as to whether the attack against Soleimani was to deter an imminent threat or a larger scheme to damage the force’s leadership.
“This suggests a mission with a longer planning horizon and a larger objective, and it really does call into question why there was an attempt to explain this publicly on the basis of an imminent threat,” said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at the Brookings Institution.
The news of the failed attack on Shahlai comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill have questioned President Trump’s decision to authorize a strike on Soleimani, and a resolution limiting Trump’s ability to order more military action recently passed in the House.
Meanwhile, the Defense and State Departments maintain that the strike against Soleimani saved “dozens” if not “hundreds” of American lives that were in danger. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also reiterated that attacks had been “imminent,” as reported by The Inquisitr.
Like Soleimani, Shahlai has also been seen as a threat to American lives by U.S. officials. Just last month, the State Department offered a $15 million reward for information related to Shahlai and anything that could cause disruption to the IRGC’s financial mechanism.
Abdul Reza Shahla'i, the IRGC's Man in Sana'a, is wanted for Justice ⚖️
The U.S. Department of State is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to Shahla'i or to the disruption of the IRGC's financial mechanisms in Yemen and in the region. pic.twitter.com/cyiojVfPmL
— Rewards for Justice (@Rewards4Justice) December 5, 2019
The statement added that Shahlai had a “long history of involvement in attacks targeting the U.S. and our allies, including in the 2011 plot against the Saudi ambassador” at an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Last year, the special representative for Iran Brian Hook said that the United States was “gravely concerned by [Shahlai’s] presence in Yemen and potential role in providing advanced weaponry of the kind we have interdicted to the Houthis.” The civil war in Yemen has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
It is not clear why the strike against Shahlai failed, and both the State Department and the White House declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Commander Rebecca Rebarich, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the Defense Department does not discuss “alleged operations” in response to the January 2 strike. However, she added that Yemen was “long-understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States.”
It is not known whether the United States will attempt a second attack against the Iranian financier, but many politicos believe it is becoming less and less likely as deescalation between the two countries continues.