THE TARGETED KILLING OF Hassan Mahdawi, a high-ranking member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the commander of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon, was carried out by Israel on April 1, 2024. The actual assassination was based on precise operational intelligence, while Israel’s assessment of Iran’s response was wrong.

On the day of the attack, a building adjacent to the Iranian Embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus was attacked with rockets. The attack killed seven IRGC members: General Muhammad Reza Zahedi, also known as Hassan Mahdawi, his deputy, and five additional officers. Mahdawi is the most senior Iranian commander to be killed since the assassination of IRGC Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani by the United States in 2020.

Mahdawi had close ties with Hezbollah. He maintained a close relationship with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and was perceived by Israel to be directly coordinating the military attacks on Israel from Lebanon and Syria. In Tehran’s collective memory, Israel’s history of attacks against it includes numerous strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, assassinations of scientists within Iran, and actions against Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. Traditionally, these attacks have been invariably met with attacks by Iran’s proxies in the region.

This time, it was different. Iran recognized Mahdawi’s assassination as a direct attack on Iran that it could not tolerate, and had to respond to differently. Just days following Mahdawi’s assassination, Iran attacked Israel. According to the Israel Defense Forces, 99 percent of the more than 330 weapons fired at Israel (including at least 185 drones and 110 surface-to-surface missiles) were intercepted, mostly over the territory of countries adjacent to Israel. Iran’s attack on Israel was unprecedented. It was launched directly from Iranian territory in contrast to prior cases, when Iran has used its proxies, supposedly leaving its hands clean.

Israel could not tolerate such a blatant infringement on its sovereignty. After Israeli officials vowed a response to the Iranian attack, the Jewish State counter-attacked, causing minor damage to the Eighth Shekari Air Base in northwest Esfahan, a dozen kilometers from the Natanz nuclear facility. It was a calculated response designed to deliver a message to Iran that Israel could and would respond to an attack. Following Israel’s counterattack, the tensions between Iran and Israel have subsided for the time being.

While the attack on General Mahdawi was based on excellent operational intelligence, it became evident that the Israeli assessment regarding a possible Iranian response was erroneous. The Israeli assessment was that the Iranian response would be similar to what occurred in the past —namely limited attacks by Hezbollah on northern Israel and attacks on the Golan heights by Iranian proxies in Syria. Israel simply did not anticipate a direct Iranian attack on Israel from Iranian territory.

It seems that Israeli senior analysts were entangled in a conception of Iran’s past behavior and anticipated that Tehran’s response would be similar to prior cases, namely utilizing Iran’s proxies. Israel did not pay enough attention to the difference between Mahdawi’s assassination and previous attacks against Iran. This time, the attack targeted the Iranian embassy in Damascus and the target was a very senior official, who was close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

It appears that Israel’s assessment of the Iranian response to Mahdawi’s assassination was a strategic failure. It appears more likely that the Israeli War Cabinet was provided with an incorrect assessment by the nation’s intelligence community, and less likely that it was provided with an incorrect assessment, which it then decided to ignore. There is concern in Israel that the intelligence assessment was once again wrong, after the colossal failure to anticipate the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Source » intelnews