Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Quds Force, was killed in an drone strike carried out by the United States in Baghdad in the early hours of Friday.
The “decisive defensive action” of eliminating the powerful Iranian general was ordered by US President Donald Trump, a Pentagon statement said. The head of IRGC-Quds force designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US, was reportedly targeted while being driven from Baghdad airport by local allies from the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU). The deputy head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, a close Soleimani associate, was also killed in the attack.
The White House accused Soleimani of “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region” and of being “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
The Iranian general also allegedly orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27, and approved attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week. In retaliation to alleged Iranian rocket attacks, the US carried out airstrikes in five locations in Iraq and Syria targeting multiple weapons and munitions depots linked to Iran.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world,” the statement read.
Iranian state media have confirmed Soleimani’s death. He was considered second most powerful person in Iran, behind the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and arguably ahead of President Hassan Rouhani. Khameinei has vowed "severe revenge" against the US for the attack.
“The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani – THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al – is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Twitter.
“Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this - as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?” Chris Murphy, US Senator from Connecticut, posted on his official twitter account.
“The justification for the assasination is to 'deter future Iranian attacks.' One reason we don’t generally assasinate foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed. That should be our real, pressing and grave worry tonight,” Murphy added.
His death has come three months after intelligence unit of IRGC foiled an assassination attempt against Soleimani allegedly plotted for several years by Arab-Jewish intelligence services. The Arab countries said to be involved in the plan were not revealed.
The senior IRGC commander reportedly led Iranian military advisers backing the national armies of Syria and Iraq in their fight against terror groups, many of which had the backing of the Israeli regime and certain Persian Gulf Arab regimes. And in Lebanon’s victory against Israeli forces in 2006, Soleimani is said to have played an important part, according to a 629-page Winograd Report by the Israeli regime itself.