The late Major General Yuri Ivanov
Richard Silverstein, in Eurasia Review, points the finger at Mossad.
The Telegraph is reporting that Maj. Gen. Yuri Ivanov, deputy head of Russian intelligence service known as GRU, died in Syria recently. Speculation is rampant that he was assassinated. He had been staying in the northwestern Syrian resort of Tartous when he disappeared, with his body later hauled in by Turkish fishermen.
Here is some background on Ilanov:
Major-General Yuri Ivanov, 52, was the deputy head of Russiaâ€™s foreign military intelligence arm known as GRU which is thought to operate the biggest network of foreign spies out of all of Russiaâ€™s clandestine intelligence services.
â€¦Reports have suggested he was on official business and the location where he is reported to have disappeared was only about fifty miles from a strategically vital Russian naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus which is being expanded and upgraded to service and refuel ships from Russiaâ€™s Black Sea Fleet. The facility is Russiaâ€™s only foothold in the Mediterranean Sea, and Mossad, Israelâ€™s national intelligence agency, is known to be concerned that Moscow will use the upgraded facility as a base for spy ships and electronic espionage directed at the Middle East.
One wonders whether this is another variant of the U.S.S. Liberty episode in which Israel is warning the Russians not to stray too far into Israelâ€™s business and its â€œsphere of influence.â€ I have written here about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Syria. Given this, the Mossad cannot have liked one of Russiaâ€™s top spies setting up a new base in Syria. Israel undoubtedly feels it has its hands full anticipating attacks by Hezbollah or Syria on its northern front. To add Russian mischief to the mix would be even more dangerous for Israeli interests.
The Guardian further adds that Ivanov was the architect of several spectacular assassinations of Chechen separatist leaders on foreign soil, one in Qatar. It seems perfect justice for Ivanov himself to have died in similar circumstances.
Of course, this is speculation. But given the dearth of facts, it seems credible speculation that awaits further confirmation or repudiation.
This incident recalls a not dissimilar one in 2008, in which a Syrian general and confidant of Pres. Assad was assassinated by a sniper while sunbathing at his southern Syrian coastal villa. In that case too, if I recall correctly, the Syrians originally reported that Gen. Suleiman died in a â€œswimming accident.â€ The general was Syriaâ€™s main liaison with Hezbollah and responsible for supplying it with sophisticated weaponry, and as such wouldâ€™ve been a desirable Mossad target.
Furthermore, Israel, if it killed Ilanov, is sending Assad a message that it has penetrated his circle and those of his closest allies. No one is safe.
It’s difficult to see who else might have been responsible, but if Israel really did assassinate a very senior and important official of Russian military intelligence, that was certainly a bold and risky move. The Russians are decidedly not the United States. They believe absolutely in avenging this kind of thing, and the long knives will be out.
Intelligence services typically do not engage in killing one another’s officers for the obvious reason that retaliation is certainly within the capablities of the opposition and intelligence professionals are not eager to affix targets on their own backs.
If Mossad really killed the second-in-command of Russian military intelligence, there has to have been a very very good reason for such a drastic and dangerous step. And if it was Mossad, we can expect to see intelligence service gang war break out openly as a result.