The United States secretly bolstered security at thousands of federal buildings across the nation in the hours after the 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, amid fears Iran would launch an attack on US soil, according to a Saturday report.
Several current and former US officials told The Wall Street Journal that the effort, code-named Operation Resilience, was launched following concerns that Iran would use its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah to attack the US in response to the deadly airstrike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.
Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards with links to armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Yemen. The Quds force is designated by a number of countries as a terrorist organization, including the US and Israel.
The nighttime strike destroyed a convoy carrying Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy leader of the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of pro-Iranian armed groups, and others.
Iran responded days later by firing missiles at bases hosting US troops in Iraq. No one was killed but Washington said dozens suffered traumatic brain injuries.
According to the WSJ, Operation Resilience demonstrated that US concerns about an Iranian attack on domestic targets were “much broader in scope” than the targeting of Soleimani. The operation’s existence had not been previously made public, the report said.
A former official told the newspaper that in addition to securing federal buildings, the US prepared for cyberattacks and ordered the Coast Guard and Border Patrol to up their security.
Iran has vowed further revenge, specifically against Donald Trump, unless the former US president is tried over the killing of Soleimani.
Washington said at the time of the airstrike that Soleimani was planning imminent action against US personnel in Iraq, a war-battered country long torn between principal allies Washington and Tehran.
This week, the US Justice Department said it had indicted a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for plotting to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani.
Shahram Poursafi, identified by US officials as a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated terrorist organization, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot.
Iran has dismissed the allegations as a “work of fiction.”