Just last night, Thursday, January 2nd, the Pentagon launched an airstrike on Baghdad, killing a powerful Iranian military leader, General Qsem Soleimani while he was at an airport, along with several other Iranian military and political officials.
The U.S. Defense Department states it conducted the attack under President Donald Trump’s direction as “defensive action. Soleimani was said to be planning further attacks on American diplomats and personnel.
In Iran, General Soleimani heads Iran’s elite Quds Force and is seen as an extremely influential military figure. The Defense Department stated this Thursday night, “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. 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.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a statement directed towards the United States, warning, “severe revenge awaits the criminals.”
This airstrike attack has sparked fears of a much larger confrontation between the U.S. and Iran.
Naysan Rafati, a senior Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group, working to prevent global conflict states, “This is a major blow to the Iranians, symbolically as well as strategically. There has been no individual as deeply associated with Iran’s regional network of partners and proxies as Soleimani, which made him a hero to Tehran’s allies and a villain without peer to its rivals.”
Rafati goes on to say, while the Pentagon exclaimed the strike’s aim was to deter further Iranian attacks, “in the short term, there is a very real possibility of retaliatory action by Iran that could reverberate across the region.“
Connecticut Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, voiced his concerns saying, the airstrike could trigger a major military escalation with Iran.
Others have stated this strategic attack could very well lead to the most consequential military confrontation in decades.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated “I now urge the administration to be prepared for possible retaliation, including against U.S. troops stationed in the region, and to consult closely with Congress on any next steps should the situation escalate.”
The State Department on Friday issued a new travel warning for Americans in Iraq – urging them to leave the country immediately if possible.