On the same day the U.S. military killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, U.S. forces carried out another top-secret mission against a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, according to a new report.
The simultaneous strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, four U.S. officials familiar with the matter told the Washington Post.
The successful January 3 strike that killed Soleimani sparked fury from the Iranian regime, which retaliated with ballistic missile strikes on two Iraqi bases that host U.S. troops but caused no casualties.
Officials say the Pentagon would have announced the two strikes together if they had been successful but did not disclose the Shahlai mission because it did not go according to plan.
It’s unclear why the operation to kill Shahlai was unsuccessful, and the Department of Defense declined to elaborate when reached by DailyMail.com.
‘We have seen the report of a January 2 airstrike in Yemen, which is long-understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States,’ said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, Pentagon spokeswoman, in a statement.
‘The Department of Defense does not discuss alleged operations in the region,’ Rebarich said. Shahlai, born around 1957, has been linked to attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, including a sophisticated 2007 raid in which Iranian-backed militiamen abducted and killed five Americans troops in the city of Karbala.
Last month, the State Department offered a $15 million reward for information leading to Shahlai and the disruption of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s financial mechanisms.
The announcement said that Shahlai is based in Yemen and has 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. Shahlai’s base of operation is in Sana’a, Yemen, where he serves as the Quds Forces’ chief financier backing Iran’s Shiite proxy forces in the region, as well as funding assassination and terror plots, according to the State Department. Sana’a is under the control of Houthi rebels, an Iran-backed Shiite faction fighting American-armed Saudis and local Sunni factions in Yemen’s brutal ongoing civil war.
The failed mission against Shahlai suggests President Donald Trump envisioned a broader strike against the Quds Force in the Middle East, and not just Iraq. In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Trump said he authorized the strike on Soleimani because four U.S. embassies, including the embassy in Baghdad, were under imminent threat of attack from Iran-backed forces.
He said the decapitation strike on the Quds Forces, which essentially serves as Iran’s combined CIA and Special Operations, was an act of self-defense to protect against an imminent threat.
On Friday, Trump ordered new retaliatory economic sanctions on Iran, even as his administration faced persistent questions over its drone strike on Soleimani.
Trump issued an executive order adding additional U.S. sanctions to an already long list his administration has imposed, aiming to force Iran to accept a new agreement that would curb its nuclear program and halt support for militant groups throughout the Middle East.
The president, in a statement announcing the new measures, referenced Iran’s nuclear program and use of proxy forces throughout the region while noting that the Iranians have threatened U.S. service members, diplomats and civilians – an apparent reference to his administration’s justification for killing Soleimani in a drone strike last week in Baghdad.
‘The United States will continue to counter the Iranian regime’s destructive and destabilizing behavior,’ he said. But Trump and his administration faced continuing questions over its claims of an ‘imminent’ threat as justification for killing Soleimani.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others in the administration have said the threat posed by Soleimani was imminent, but they have not offered evidence to support that. Members of Congress said officials did not provide sufficient detail or justification in briefings this week.