Scott Young, News Editor
The United States conducted a drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport on Friday, January 3 that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, an airstrike that the Department of Defense called a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad.”
Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, a unit within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps dedicated to Iran’s covert operations.
Soleimani coordinated several of Iran’s military interventions throughout the Middle East, including one that the U.S. says killed hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“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,” said a statement from the Department of Defense announcing the death of Soleimani.
President Trump defended the strike that killed Soleimani, saying that his killing was necessary to stop a war.
“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and personnel,” Trump said.
Trump further clarified that the U.S. strike was not designed to enact regime change and that his administration does not seek regime change.
After the airstrike, Trump took to Twitter to defend his decision and said:
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
The strike has heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran even more following an attack on the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve.
“The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted after Soleimani’s death was confirmed.
Several anti-war protests have spawned across the U.S. following Soleimani’s killing, including outside of the White House and New York City’s Time Square.
“No justice, no peace. U.S. out of the Middle East,” said around 200 protesters chanting outside of Trump Tower in Chicago, USA Today reported.
Iranian officials have threatened retaliation for Soleimani’s death, suggesting that they would strike several American military targets.
The Iraqi parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from the region after the airstrike, approving a non-binding resolution to urge Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to rescind the invitation by Iraq for U.S. troops to rescue the country after the Islamic State took control of about one-third of its territory in 2014.
Trump responded by threatening Iraq with “very big sanctions”.
Many Democrats have blamed Trump for escalating tensions with Iran and have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to limit him from initiating further hostilities with Iran without seeking authorization from Congress.
“Last week, the Trump administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “For this reason, we are concerned that the administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.”
The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday, January 7 that Iran fired ballistic missiles at two targets housing both U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq.
The Defense Department said that more than a dozen ballistic missiles had been launched from Iran at two Iraqi military bases.
“All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning,” Trump tweeted shortly after the news broke of an attack.
Trump addressed the nation the morning after the attack to provide an update on his administration’s path forward and confirmed that there were no casualties.
“As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” said Trump.
Trump also said that he plans to impose a fresh round of sanctions against Iran in response to the attack.
“These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior,” said Trump.