- Iran’s elite Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, was killed in an airstrike, the US military announced Thursday.
- “At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force,” the Defence Department said in a statement, using a different spelling of his name.
- “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the statement said, adding that “this strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Iran’s elite Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, was killed in an airstrike in Iraq, the US military announced Thursday.
“At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force,” the Defence Department said in a statement, using a different spelling for his name.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the statement said, adding that “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 added.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Shiite Iran-backed militia responsible for the assault on the US Embassy in Iraq earlier this week, was also killed in the airstrike, according to Iraqi state media. A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that al-Muhandis and Soleimani were killed and that DNA results were pending.
“The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, the Iran-backed umbrella paramilitary group, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
PMF sympathizers orchestrated the protests at the US Embassy on New Year’s Eve, prompting the US to send in military reinforcements to secure the site. That assault followed a rocket barrage on December 27 that killed an American contractor and retaliatory US airstrikes thought to have killed 25 militants.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper in a statement Thursday said the US “will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region.”
“Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner, and place of our choosing,” Esper said. “We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities.”
Soleimani was designated by the US as a terrorist for his ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The elite Quds Force, a branch of the Revolutionary Guard, provided lethal aid to the Taliban and other extremist groups.
Some US lawmakers spoke out in support of the operation announced Thursday.
“The price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically. Major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in a statement. “Soleimani was one of the most ruthless and vicious members of the Ayatollah’s regime. He had American blood on his hands.”
“If Iranian aggression continues and I worked at an Iranian oil refinery, I would think about a new career,” Graham later added.
Who was Soleimani?
Soleimani, 62, was the leader of the Quds Force, a division of the Revolutionary Guard trained in unconventional warfare beyond Iran’s borders, including in Syria and Iraq. His influence in the region was met with consternation by US officials, who widely allege that his actions further destabilized the region.
Soleimani commanded the Quds Force for over 20 years and also provided military aid to militant groups designated as terrorist organisations, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. In 2007, the US designated Soleimani as a terrorist and imposed sanctions against him, pointing toward roughly $US100 million to $US200 million that was provided to Hezbollah and weapons that were provided to the Taliban.
“In addition, the Qods Force provides lethal support in the form of weapons, training, funding, and guidance to select groups of Iraqi Shi’a militants who target and kill Coalition and Iraqi forces and innocent Iraqi civilians,” the US Treasury said in a statement in 2007.
Soleimani was also sanctioned in 2011, when the US linked him to a plot to kill a Saudi ambassador in Washington. Despite the sanctions and travel bans, Soleimani travelled throughout the world, including Russia, and met with senior officials.
Soleimani was previously rumoured to have been killed in a 2006 aeroplane crash in Iran and a 2012 bombing in Syria.
Following a fiery 2018 tweet in which Trump threatened Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Soleimani offered a response.
“As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to your threats … If you want to use the language of threat … talk to me, not to the president,” Soleimani said, according to a Reuters report citing an Iranian state news agency.
“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine … Come. We are ready … If you begin the war, we will end the war,” Soleimani added. “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess.”