U.S. Kills Iranian General Qasem Suleimani in Airstrike at Baghdad Airport
A Shiite Muslim pilgrim walks with a bag adorned with a portrait of Qasem Suleimani, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General and commander of the Quds Force, who was killed on Friday morning in Baghdad. Photo: MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP via Getty Images
Early on Friday in Baghdad, U.S. forces killed Major General Qasem Suleimani in an air strike at the Baghdad International Airport in order to “protect U.S. personnel abroad,” according to the Pentagon. The attack was carried out “at the direction of the president.” Suleimani is the head of Iran’s Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for clandestine operations abroad and for providing material support to groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization for Iraqi militias, whose deputy leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also reportedly killed in the attack, along with five others.
The strike is likely to escalate the tension between the two powers currently engaged in proxy skirmishes in Iraq. Last week, the United States claimed that an Iranian-backed militia fired rockets into an American base in Kirkuk Province north of Baghdad, killing an American contractor. In response, U.S. forces bombed three sites of an Iranian-backed militia in western Iraq, killing several fighters. On Tuesday, protestors linked to pro-Iranian militias then stormed at the American Embassy in Baghdad, breaking past guards and forcing diplomats to stay locked inside for over 24 hours.
And on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued a stern warning: “If we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives. The game has changed.” Shortly after the death of Suleimani, reports also emerged that U.S. marines captured two leaders of pro-Iranian militias in Iraq: Qais Khazali of Iraqi Hezbollah and Hadi Al Ameri, the alleged head of the Badr organization, the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.