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U.S. Confirms Killing Iran’s Top General

In the early hours of Friday morning, a U.S. airstrike authorized by President Trump killed Qasem Soleimani, the top military and intelligence commander in Iran.

In the early hours of Friday morning, January 3, a U.S. airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump killed Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Major General who led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Soleimani was the top military and intelligence commander in Iran, and his death by U.S. drone surprised the world — as well as many American politicians.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Trump did not seek congressional authorization for the drone strike, which many members of Congress criticized him for. One major concern is that this escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran will be interpreted as an act of outright war, and that the Iranian government will respond in kind. In fact, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, known as Iran’s Supreme Leader, said in a statement that “a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”

Previous presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not target Soleimani due to concerns of Iranian retaliation against U.S. troops and diplomats in the region.

Another concern is that the strike took place just outside the Baghdad International Airport, upsetting many government officials in Iraq, an ally of the United States.

Who was Soleimani?

The 62-year-old commander was known as the architect of many of Iran’s moves in the Middle East for the last two decades, including attacks in Iraq, Syria and Israel. The New York Times has a comprehensive rundown of his past and called it a “staggering blow for Iran at a time of sweeping geopolitical conflict.”

Why now? What led to this?

Tensions have been escalating between the U.S. and Iran ever since President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but they’ve gotten particularly worse in the last few weeks.

The killing of Soleimani, along with several leaders and officials in Iraqi militias who were in the car with him at the time of the strike, came just one day after Iranian-supported protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and set parts of the building on fire. 

Here’s what led to the violence: First, a U.S. contractor in Iraq was killed and others were wounded in a rocket attack on December 27, which an Iran-backed militia group takes responsibility for. In response, U.S. planes bombed five total weapons storage facilities and command centers in Iraq and Syria that are connected to the militia group, killing at least 25 people and upsetting Iraqi government officials, who felt it was a violation of national sovereignty.
 
On December 31, members of the Shiite militia group known as the Popular Mobilization Forces stormed the embassy, smashed windows, and vandalized it. Sit-ins and campouts turned violent, resulting in U.S. security officials tear gassing the protesters. Protesters left the partially destroyed embassy on January 1, and Trump and the Supreme Leader exchanged threatening messages on Twitter. One day later, commander Soleimani was killed in an overnight drone strike.
 
As for the timing of the Trump administration decision, the president is now up for re-election and is set to face an impeachment trial in the Senate soon. Here’s what he said about Obama and Iran in the past: