President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed a military commander widely regarded as the second most powerful official in Iran, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The Pentagon said Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force unit.
The Pentagon said the strike was carried out to “protect US personnel abroad” after militia members stormed the US embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
"[Soleimani] had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months, including the attack on Dec. 27, culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel," the Pentagon said in a statement. "General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike was carried out to disrupt an “imminent attack” in the region.
The move escalated tensions between Iran and the US. The State Department warned all Americans in Iraq to leave “immediately.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump launched the strike without informing Congress.
Iran vows retaliation:
“Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, according to The Washington Post.
"With his departure and with God's power, his work and path will not cease, and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood and the blood of the other martyrs of last night's incident," Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement.
Who is Soleimani?
Soleimani was “extraordinarily close to the Supreme Leader of Iran” and was “more powerful than Iran’s president,” reported HuffPost's Yashar Ali, adding that the Quds forces were “responsible for assassinations, terrorism, and unconventional warfare that Iran supports in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen… [and] for successful and attempted terrorist acts and assassinations in countries like Argentina, the United States, India, and Germany.”
“Killing Soleimani is not like killing the head of a terrorist [organization],” he wrote. “It's like killing the head of a terrorist organization and a head of state. You have to treat it as such and the US has not DIRECTLY engaged in assassinations on that level in decades.”