Iran promises 'hard revenge' after US airstrike kills Iranian general Qassem Soleimani
BAGHDAD: The United States killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani , head of the elite Quds Force and architect of Iran's growing military influence in the Middle East, in an air raid on Friday at Baghdad airport, the Pentagon and Iran said.
The main commander of the Iraqi militia Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an advisor, also died in the attack that was authorized by the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
Soleimani's assassination marks a dramatic escalation in the regional shadow war between Iran and the United States and its allies, mainly Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could rapidly accelerate eye-to-eye attacks.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised a strong revenge .
Iran has been locked in a long conflict with the United States that intensified sharply last week with a attack on the United States embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian militiamen after a US air strike against the Kataib Hezbollah militia, founded by Muhandis.
By order of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive measures to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani, the Pentagon said in a statement.
This attack was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans, he added.
US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Soleimani had died in a drone attack. The Revolutionary Guard of Iran said it was killed in an attack by American helicopters.
The images showed burning debris on a road near the airport.
Oil prices rose almost $ 3 in the news.
Khamenei said that a hard revenge awaited the criminals who killed Soleimani and that his death, although bitter, would double the motivation of the resistance against the United States and Israel.
All enemies should know that the jihad of the resistance will continue with a double motivation, and a final victory awaits the combatants in the holy war, Khamenei said in a statement issued by state television, in which he asked for three days of national mourning . .
But it could be difficult for Iran to plan and carry out the kind of sophisticated attacks that Soleimani was accused of planning during his more than 20 years of projecting the military influence of the Islamic Republic in the Middle East.
The presenters of the state television dressed in black and transmitted images of Soleimani looking through binoculars through a desert and saluting a soldier, and Muhandis speaking with his followers.
President Hassan Rouhani said the murder would make Iran more decisive in its resistance to the United States. while the Revolutionary Guard of Iran said anti-EE. UU. the forces would demand revenge throughout the Muslim world.
Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) of Iraq, the general group of militias backed by Iran, blamed the United States and Israel for the murder of Soleimani and Muhandis.
Iraqi paramilitary groups said three rockets hit Baghdad International Airport, killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two guests.
The rockets fell near the air cargo terminal, burning two vehicles, killing and injuring several people.
The commander of the local militia, Abu Muntathar al-Hussaini, told Reuters that the two leaders were in a vehicle struck by two missiles as they left the airport from their arrivals hall. The second vehicle, carrying PMF bodyguards, was hit by a rocket, he said.
The US criminals had detailed information about the movements of the convoy, Hussaini said.
Trump, who faces impeachment charges, did not comment immediately, but posted a photo of the U.S. flag on Twitter.
https://t.co/VXeKiVzpTf - Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1578018773000
In Israel, the government of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu , which for a long time considered Soleimani a great threat, did not immediately respond to his death, but the Israel Army Radio said the army had been on alert.
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who introduces himself as a nationalist who rejects Iranian and American influence, ordered his followers to be ready to defend Iraq and urged all parties to behave wisely.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad condemned if it was called American criminal aggression.
FORCED RESPONSE PROBABLY
The Quds Force of the murdered commander, along with his group of paramilitary representatives from the Hezbollah of Lebanon to the PMF in Iraq (militias hardened by battle armed with missiles) has ample means to launch a multiple response.
In September, US officials blamed Iran for a devastating attack with missiles and drones at the oil facilities of Saudi Aramco, the energy giant of the Saudi state and the world's largest oil exporter. The Trump administration did not respond, beyond heated rhetoric and threats.
Iran, meanwhile, has absorbed dozens of airstrikes and missile attacks, mainly carried out by Israel against its fighters and representatives in Syria and Iraq.
But analysts say Iran is likely to respond strongly to attacks against Soleimani, who has become a legend as its influence has spread throughout the region in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent occupation.
Soleimani, who led the foreign arm of the Revolutionary Guard and played a key role in the struggle in Syria and Iraq, acquired celebrity status in the country and abroad.
He survived several assassination attempts against him by Western, Israeli and Arab agencies over the past two decades.
His Quds Force, in charge of carrying out operations beyond the borders of Iran, supported Assad's support of Syria when he appeared to be close to the defeat in the civil war that has been unleashed since 2011 and also helped the militiamen defeat the Islamic state in Iraq.
He became head of the Quds Force in 1998, a position in which he maintained a low profile for years while strengthening Iran's ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Syrian government and Shiite militia groups in Iraq.
Muhandis, who was killed with Soleimani, oversaw the Iraqi PMF, a group of paramilitary groups consisting mainly of Shia militias backed by Iran that formally integrated into the Iraqi armed forces.
His militia Kataib Hezbollah, which received training on the battlefield of Lebanese Hezbollah, has long attacked US forces and was one of the first groups to send combatants to Syria to support Assad.
In 2009, Washington declared Kataib Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization, saying it threatened stability in Iraq and declared Muhandis a terrorist. In 2007, a Kuwaiti court sentenced him to death in absentia for his participation in the 1983 attacks at the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait.
Iran's ambassador to Iraq told state television that Soleimani's body would be sent to Iran.