A senior Resistance Axis* security official has told The Cradle that the Axis is responsible for the deaths of an American and Israeli commander in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Deputy Commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes.
According to The Cradle’s security source:
“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. 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.”
This is the first time a Resistance Axis official has claimed responsibility for retaliatory measures against the killers of the Iranian and Iraqi generals.
On June 27, a day after his death, the US Defense Department released a brief statement saying Lt. Col. Willis died in a non-combatant incident at Udeid base, without providing any further details other than “the incident is under investigation.”
The military newspaper Stars and Stripes describes Willis as “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” – a description inconsistent with Qatar’s environs.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Colonel Sharon Asman, who, according to Israeli media, had assumed command of the Nahal Infantry Brigade only days before his death, is alleged to have died on 1 July after collapsing during a training run. Asman was a combatant who fought in both Gaza and Lebanon. The IDF said the incident was under investigation.
The Cradle’s security source says both Willis and Asman were killed in Erbil, Iraq, during an operation against those involved in the assassinations of Soleimani and Muhandis.
There have been at least two separate reported attacks this year on Mossad targets in Iraq by unknown parties.
The first incident, in mid-April, followed Israel’s sabotage attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, several strikes against each other’s maritime vessels in regional waters, and the Israeli assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November. The pro-US Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) denied reports of the incident.
Willis’ squadron arrived in the region in spring. The Resistance Axis source did not elaborate on the timing of the attacks that killed Willis and Asman.
The security official also spoke of Iran’s new assertive stance in response to ongoing Israeli attacks. “Iran has changed the equation of dealing with the (Israeli) regime.”
“From now on,” the official explained, in reference to a raft of Israeli attacks on Iranian vessels, “a ship will be attacked after any action of the (Israeli) regime against the interests of Iran.”
A lesson in military ‘proportionality’ ensued: “The (Israeli) regime has claimed to have hit 12 Iranian ships so far, while Iran has not hit more than five. So far, seven other Iranians ships are in need of work. If any other attack on Iranian positions is carried out, Iran will respond by targeting the (Israeli) regime’s ships.”
“The (Israeli) regime conducts more than 80 percent of its trade by sea, which is forced to pass through areas under Iran’s control – which means being exposed to Iran’s fire,” warned the official.
Early last month, the US, UK and Israel threatened retaliation against Tehran, alleging that Iran had conducted drone strikes on an oil tanker, Mercer Street, off the coast of Oman. Iran vigorously denied any role in the attack.
According to the Associated Press, the troika “have yet to show physical evidence from the strike or show intelligence information on why they blame Tehran.”
These bold rules of engagement being drawn by the Axis of Resistance can reach well beyond the region’s borders.
It’s a new dynamic: the notion that middle states and their militia alliances are prepared to confront the most heavily militarized states in the world, and inflict a 1:1 ratio of damage – “in retaliation,” and therefore legal under the rules of war and international law.
The Axis’ new ‘eye for an eye’ doctrine has the potential to deter and limit the maneuverability of the US and its allies in West Asia.
On Saturday, a New York Times (NYT) investigation breathlessly described how Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated by the Mossad, using a remote-controlled Artificial Intelligence machine gun operated from Israel.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied the NYT’s version of events on Sunday, saying that Iranian intelligence had all the details of the incident, including information on the operatives involved.
*The Resistance Axis is an alliance of states and organizations in West Asia that fundamentally opposes Western imperialism, zionism, and foreign intervention, and demands the total withdrawal of all Western military forces and bases in the region. The Axis consists of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Yemen’s Ansarallah, a number of Iraqi political and military groups, and a smattering of smaller organizations.