Free Syrian Army sources revealed several days ago that an Iranian general, Hassan Shateri (also known as Hussam Hush Nawis) was killed in Syria recently. First reports made it appear he might’ve been killed by the FSA. Iran, however, said that he was killed by Israel. But since it didn’t add any further information, I couldn’t figure out how Israel would’ve done so.
Now, I’ve put the pieces together with the help of my own intuition, a Ynetnews report, and an Israeli source. Israel killed Shateri two weeks ago in an air attack on an Iranian arms convoy that was carrying advanced weaponry through Syria, making its way to Lebanon. Shateri, in fact, was responsible for the Iranian reconstruction project of rebuilding southern Lebanon after the 2006 war. He even had a diplomatic position, which would mean that not only did Israel invade Syrian sovereignty in killing him, it also killed an Iranian diplomat. There may be those who scoff at the notion that an IRG general may be a diplomat. But there are many military attaches who serve in embassies around the world, yet enemies of these nations don’t generally go around offing them. Israel holds that special distinction.
Perhaps most important here is that the Iranian official was killed during the same set of raids which Syria claimed attacked its military research center, home of that nation’s biological and chemical weapons programs. In fact, my Israeli source tells me either there was no raid on the research center or, if it was damaged, it was collateral damage and the sole focus was the weapons convoy, which was in close proximity to the center. The target was located in Jamraya in Syria.
I don’t know whether the convoy attack was a targeted assassination of Shateri himself; or whether the weapons themselves were the target and his presence in it hadn’t been known to the Israelis. Given the level of Israeli intelligence in these matters my money is on this being a targeted assassination. This is further confirmed by the news that several of Shateri’s key aides who were traveling with him were also killed. Iran’s admission that Israel killed Shateri is further proof that Iran believes it was a targeted hit.
Though Israel has assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran (whose level of security was low), it has not succeeded in felling IRG generals. There was one case in which a missile plant explosion killed the leader of the IRG’s national missile program. My Israeli source reported that this was an act of Israeli sabotage. That would mean that Shateri is the second IRG general to be assassinated by Israel.
In this case though, Shateri had nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program. This is the justification Israel has used all along to defend its covert campaign against Iran: that it was protecting the nation from existential threat from WMD. Killing Shateri means Israel will kill any high level Iranian target it can get its hands on who has military value. The nuclear threat claim has gone out the window.
If Israel killed him deliberately this explains why it would’ve wanted to plant the fake Fordo sabotage story just before the attack. It would’ve served to distract the Iranians ever so slightly, so that they might not suspect it was planning to attack such a high-level Iranian asset inside Syria.