American drone strike kills Iranian general

The Strike

On Jan. 3, the U.S. military launched a drone strike on an airport in Baghdad, Iraq, killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, classified as a terrorist leader. The attack was purportedly preemptive, though it has been deemed by an act of foreign aggression Iran. After months of friction, the killing of Soleimani has bolstered tension between the U.S. and Iran.

The attack came after escalating tensions in the Middle East. On Dec. 27, the Iranian-allied militant group Kataib Hezbollah attacked a U.S. military base in Iraq, killing one American and wounding many others, both American and Iraqi. In response, U.S. officials ordered airstrikes against the group, and on Dec. 31, supporters of the militant group attempted to storm the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Soon after, the airstrike was carried out.

Who was Qasem Soleimani?

Reportedly the second most powerful leader in Iran behind Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Soleimani was a powerful military leader and head of the Quds Force, a unit within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp. The U.S. military has recognized the Quds Force as a terrorist organization and has cited plans by Soleimani as justification for the strike. 

In the past, the U.S. has also blamed Soleimani for providing Iraqi combatants with the tools and training to develop bombs. General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” explained the U.S. Department of Defense in a recently-released statement. “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.” 

The after-effects

Killing Soleimani was a divisive decision in the U.S. In Iran, Soleimani was a popular figure, beloved by many. “Revenge for his blood will be exacted on that day when the filthy hands of America will be cut off forever from the region” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as reported by the BBC. Iran has threatened revenge against the United States, the full extent of which is unknown. 

After Soleimani’s death, the section of Baghdad housing the U.S. embassy came under rocket fire, as did a U.S. military base north of the city. Iran has also launched missile attacks on the American air bases Irbil and Al-Asad in Iraq. There are no confirmed casualties, and the course of action for the U.S. is unknown. According to the BBC, 3000 soldiers were preemptively deployed to the Middle East after the killing of Soleimani, so military action, or increased military presence, is possible. 

However, President Trump’s speech on the Jan. 8  seems to convey a desire to avoid war. “We took action last night to stop a war.  We did not take action to start a war,” said Trump. “We do not seek regime change. However, the Iranian regime’s aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors, must end, and it must end now.”