President Donald Trump ordered a game-changing U.S. military attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, among other military officials at Baghdad International Airport early Friday, the Pentagon confirmed.
Soleimani is the military mastermind whom Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had deemed equally as dangerous as Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In October, Baghdadi killed himself during a U.S. raid on a compound in northwest Syria, seven months after the so-called ISIS “caliphate” crumbled as the terrorist group lost its final swath of Syrian territory in March.
In April 2019, the State Department announced Iran was responsible for killing 608 U.S. troops during the Iraq War. Soleimani was the head of the Iranian and Iranian-backed forces carrying out those operations killing American troops. According to the State Department, 17 percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 were orchestrated by Soleimani.
As recently as 2015, a travel ban and United Nations Security Council resolutions had barred Soleimani from leaving Iran.
Friday’s Baghdad strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, a source told Fox News.
In all, at least seven people were killed and at least three rockets were fired, officials told The Associated Press. An official with the Popular Mobilization Forces said its airport protocol officer, Mohammed Reda, also died.
Hours after the attack was announced, President Trump tweeted a simple image of the American flag.
Soleimani was the long-running leader of the elite intelligence wing called Quds Force – which itself has been a designated terror group since 2007, and is estimated to be 20,000 strong. Considered one of the most powerful men in Iran, he routinely was referred to as its “shadow commander” or “spymaster.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
In a statement, the Pentagon said the US had taken “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad” by killing Soleimani, who heads what the US describes as a foreign terrorist organization.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement said. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”