General Soleimani, the former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, along with al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, was killed in a US targeted drone strike at Baghdad International Airport in January 2020.
The Axis of Resistance carried out attacks against two American and Israeli officers in reprisal for the assassination of prominent commanders Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, The Cradle news outlet reported on Monday.
Two high-ranking American and Israeli officers were killed in summer in a military operation in Erbil, northern Iraq, according to a senior security source within the Middle Eastern alliance, cited in the report.
“An operation in Erbil killed two high-ranking American and Israeli commanders: Lt. Col. James C. Willis, 55, of Albuquerque and of the Red Horse Unit, is an American commander who was killed in an operation in Erbil, although according to a Pentagon report he died in a non-combat incident at Qatar’s Al-Udeid base,” the undisclosed source is quoted as saying. “This person was involved in the assassination operations of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi. Also [Israeli] Col. Sharon Asman of the Nahal Brigade, said to have died of heart failure, was another person killed in Erbil.”
Willis died in a non-combat event at Qatar’s Al-Udeid base, according to the Pentagon’s statement in late June, which did not provide any further information on the cause of death. He was the commander of the 210th Red Horse Squadron, a 130-member unit that “provides civil engineering with rapid response capabilities to conduct operations in remote, high threat environments,” according to the Stars and Stripes, an official military newspaper.
Asman, in his turn, died on July 1 “after collapsing during fitness training at a military base in central Israel,” according to Israeli media reports. During his 25-year career, he saw active military service in Lebanon and Gaza, among other places.
According to The Cradle’s report, in 2021, at least two separate attacks in Iraq targeted the Israeli espionage service Mossad, and it is unknown who performed the attacks. After Israel’s alleged sabotage attempt on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility earlier this year, strikes on both sides’ vessels in area waters, and the killing of Iran’s senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November, the first such retaliatory incident occurred in mid-April.
The timing of the attacks that purportedly murdered Willis and Asman was not revealed by The Cradle’s source.
“From now on,” the source said, speaking about the Israeli-Iranian conflict in the sea, “a ship will be attacked after any action of the [Israeli] regime against the interests of Iran.”
Iran has condemned the assassinations of Soleimani and al-Muhandis as “state terrorism” and promised to eliminate the American presence in the region as the final act of vengeance, while pressing Iraq to force US forces off its soil.
In April, the former Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, claimed that the resistance forces had become a significant power in the region, with the aim of confronting the United States and Israel in the first place.
“Today, the resistance fronts consisting of Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen,… against the United States and the Zionist regime are not only undefeated and passive but they are considered the victors of the battlefields,” he said, according to a Farsi News report.
Iran, Syria, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militias, and the Lebanese political and militant organization Hezbollah comprise the “Axis of Resistance,” also known as the “Resistance Front.” These forces have also been operating jointly to counter terrorists in the region, including Daesh*.
* A terrorist organization banned in Russia and many other states