DEBKAfile Special Report
January 20, 2015, 6:55 PM (IDT)
Israel Tuesday, Jan. 20, used Western and Arab media outlets for “clarification” to Tehran of the purpose of its air strike over the Golan Sunday, asserting that Revolutionary Guards Gen. Mohammad “Ali Allah Dadi and his staff of five were not known to be traveling in the Hizballah convoy and were not the target.
“We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence,’ a senior security official in Tel Aviv informed the media. “We went on the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it as an enemy vehicle and took the shot,” he said, adding: “We saw this as a limited tactical operation.”
This semi-apology, say DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources, was intended to tell Tehran that had Israeli intelligence identified the group of high-ranking Iranian officers in the Golan convoy, the air strike would have been called off. There was no reason why an intelligence mistake should cause a broad or even a limited military showdown between Iran and Israel, was the implied message.
Asked if Israel was expecting Iranian or Hizballah retribution, the Israeli security source answered: “A response is almost certain, but none of the parties is seeking escalation.”
Sharp US intervention was almost certainly behind Israel’s embarrassing “clarification.”
The Obama administration feared the Golan air strike might snowball into a full-scale military confrontation with Iran and Hizballah settling their scores with Israel. The ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers would then be abruptly interrupted and possibly break down.
Obama administration officials may well have informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that, according to information reaching US intelligence, Iran and Hizballah were spoiling for revenge and all-out war might be impossible to hold back.
DEBKAfile’s military sources are far from sure that Tehran will accept Israel’s lame excuses for the death of a senior general. They might choose not to believe that the OC of Israel’s Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, until recently chief of military intelligence (AMAN) and well versed in the arenas shared by Israel, Iran and Hizballah, would have mistaken the figures traveling in the Golan convoy.
All the same, in an effort to de-escalate the crisis, Israel has gone to the lengths of publicly owning up to a fiasco of its intelligence and a mistaken military operation.
By this climb-down for Tehran’s benefit, the prime minister and defense minister are bound to be held to account at home for failing to provide back-up for Israel’s armed forces and intelligence.