In the wake of the United States killing Qassim Suleimani, the high-profile commander of Iran’s Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, in a drone strike near Baghdad’s airport on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that Iran will take revenge, NBC News reports.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, de facto leader of Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces), an Iran-sponsored umbrella military organization composed of approximately 40 militia groups, predominantly Shia, and close Suleimani associate, was also killed in the drone strike.
“The flag of General Soleimani in defense of the country’s territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region will be raised, and the path of resistance to US excesses will continue,” Rouhani tweeted in response to the attack ordered by President Donald Trump. “The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.”
Tensions between the two nations were already high following the New Year’s siege on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, the LA Times reports, which occurred in response to U.S. air raids that killed two dozen militia fighters on Sunday.
According to Al Jazeera, hundreds of Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) protesters stormed the U.S. embassy compound, setting fires and chanting: “Death to America!”
There were no injuries or fatalities reported, but President Donald Trump still sent 750 troops to the Middle East in response, saying that he held Tehran “fully responsible” for the incident and that the Iranian capital city would “pay a very big price.”
“This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.
When reporters asked Trump if escalating actions and counter-actions meant war was a possibility, he responded, “Do I want to? No. I want to have peace. I like peace. And Iran should want to have peace more than anybody. So I don’t see that happening.”
Trump tried to justify ordering Suleimani’s assassination, with the White House putting out a statement calling it a “decisive defensive action” carried out “at the direction of the president.”
Additionally, according to a Pentagon statement, General Suleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Trump acted without congressional approval, issued the following statement:
“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions. Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America – and the world – cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.
“The Administration has conducted tonight’s strikes in Iraq targeting high-level Iranian military officials and killing Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran. Further, this action was taken without the consultation of the Congress.
“The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is among those in the international community calling Trump ordering Suleimani’s assassination an act of terrorism.
“The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani … is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation,” Zarif tweeted. “The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”