Iranian military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, was killed at Baghdad airport on Friday, Januray 2.
President Donald Trump personally approved the attack that took out the second most powerful person in Iran. Here’s everything we know.
Who was Qasem Soleimani? Soleimani, 62, spearheaded Iran‘s military operations in the Middle East as head of the country’s elite Quds Force. He joined the Revolutionary Guards – who have been declared a foreign terrorist organisation by the US – in 1979, taking over as head of the Quds Force in 1998.
He was considered to be one of the most powerful figures in the country, masterminding Iranian intelligence and military operations abroad. Outside of war-games he was considered to be even more pivotal, with commentators comparing his role to that of US Vice President, Mike Pence.
He is thought to have directly reported to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader. He gained a mysterious reputation, and was reported to have survived many assassination attempts – he was also pictured several times out of uniform and protective gear on the battlefield.
In 2019 he was awarded the Order of Zolfiqar medal – Iran’s highest military honour. Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia were closely following his movements as he cultivated Iran’s military influence in the Middle East, with the US believing he was behind attacks on Americans staying in the region.
How did Qasem Soleimani die? He killed at Baghdad airport by a US air strike, personally approved by Donald Trump. Two missiles fired from a MQ9 Reaper drone struck Soleimani after he disembarked from an aircraft at Baghdad airport.
The Pentagon justified the assassination, saying General Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”. The drone strike came days after protesters attacked the US embassy in Baghdad, clashing with US forces at the scene. The Pentagon said Soleimani approved the attacks on the embassy. Minutes before the statement President Trump tweeted a US flag without comment.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei promised “harsh vengeance”, “jihad” and “crushing revenge” against 35 US targets they have pinpointed in the wake of General Qasem Soleimani death. Trump has responded to the Iranian threats, saying he will unleash $2 trillion worth of new military equipment if US bases are targeted.
Was Qasem Soleimani responsible for the attacks on US forces? In 2018 the general told President Trump in a video: “I’m telling you Mr Trump the gambler, I’m telling you, know that we are close to you in that place you don’t think we are. You will start the war but we will end it.”
In 2007 he was accused by the US military of supplying explosive devices to Shia Fighters during the Iraqi civil war which killed scores of American soldiers.
In 2010 he told overall head of US forces in Iraq at the time, General David Petraeus: “You should know that I, Qasem Soleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan”.
In 2015 he was rumoured to have visited Moscow as part of forging a military alliance in support of President al Assad. He has been sanctioned by the US treasury for the Quds Force’s support for Hezbollah and for crackdowns against protesters.
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