The 3 January US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, long-time commander of the Islamic Republic’s elite Quds Force military unit, further exacerbated the already strained ties between Washington and Tehran which have been tense since the White House’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
The magazine Newsweek has quoted several unnamed sources as saying that only a few people were in the know about the killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US MQ-9 Reaper drone in Iraq earlier this year.
According to the sources, the assassination of the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force was carried out in such secrecy that even the US military’s own spy satellites, the so-called “national technical means” (NTM), did not know about the drone’s position.
One of the sources claimed that there was “no GPS track on the MQ-9 Reaper as it made its way toward Baghdad International Airport, nor was there any indication of its flight provided to radar systems tasked with identifying friendly aircraft”.
This was echoed by Douglas Wise, a former deputy director of the Defence Intelligence Agency and a retired career officer at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who told Newsweek that he suspects “there were absolutely very few people involved” in what he described as a “highly compartmental” military operation.