Reaching the end of an insane and astounding week of Iran events, with the latest revelation being Iran's admission and apology for accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet amid its retaliation for Qasem Soleimani's death, The Washington Post has revealed another bombshell involving a separate failed covert assassination attempt.
On very day of the US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport which took out Soleimani and his convoy, which included Iraq's top paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, a separate but parallel operation was taking place in Yemen at the same time against a "top financier and key commander in Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen," per the Post's description.
US officials now say they also attempted to kill Islamic Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Abdul Reza Shahlai on the same day (Jan.2), but failed. "The highly classified mission against Abdul Reza Shahlai in Yemen shows that recent U.S. operations against Iran were more ambitious and multifaceted than the air strike last week that the Trump administration said it undertook to kill Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad," writes the WSJ.
Little further details have been given, other than confirmation defense officials did not consider the mission a success, and therefore would have revealed the operation alongside the announcement of Soleimani's death.
Shahlai is considered by the US to be behind attacks on US troops in Iraq, including abduction and killings of five American soldiers in the city of Karbala in 2007, and is currently active in Yemen allegedly training and supplying the Shia Houthis in their attacks on the Saudis.
Last year the State Department's special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said the United States remains “gravely concerned by his presence in Yemen and potential role in providing advanced weaponry of the kind we have interdicted to the Houthis.”
Further, according to the WSJ, "In 2011, Mr. Shahlai orchestrated and funded a plot to assassinate the then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir, at a restaurant in the Georgetown area of Washington, the State Department said."
Beyond that, there hasn't been evidence offered of just how "imminent" the threat represented by Shahlai is, at a moment the Trump administration has struggled to justify the Soleimani assassination amid push back from skeptical reporters, given the narrative has changed and altered somewhat over the past week.
Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department official and Iran analyst, described Shahlai as Gen. Soleimani’s “guy on the ground in Yemen.” Shahlai currently has a $15 million US bounty on his head. “Clearly, the intent here was to target some of the Quds Force’s most important and capable proxy handlers,” Levit further told the WSJ.