Trump administration targeted another senior Iranian official when Suleimani was killed — but that mission failed

On January 3, major media all over the world reported that Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani had been killed in Baghdad by a U.S. drone strike. But Soleimani, according to the Washington Post, wasn’t the only Iranian official U.S. forces targeted that day: another was Abdul Reza Shahlai, an Iranian military commander who, like Soleimani, was a member of Iran’s elite Quds Force.


Shahlai was targeted in war-torn Yemen. But unlike Soleimani, he escaped with his life, the Post reports.

“The unsuccessful operation may indicate that the Trump administration’s killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated,” John Hudson, Missy Ryan and Josh Dawsey report in the Post.

A senior U.S. official, interviewed on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that President Donald Trump’s administration has been quiet about the operation in Yemen because it didn’t go well. The official asserted, “If we had killed him, we’d be bragging about it that same night.”

A different senior U.S. official told the Post that Shahlai might be targeted by the U.S. military again in the future, although President Donald Trump and Iranian officials have both expressed interest in deescalating and avoiding an all-out war between the two countries.

Suzanne Maloney, an expert on Iran-related matters at the Brookings Institution, told the Post, “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.”

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