On Thursday night, breaking news emerged which indicated that a rocket attack on the Baghdad airport resulted in the killing of several top Iranian officials, including their top military leader, Gen. Qassim Soleimani, who is head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.
According to Fox News, Soleimani was compared earlier this year to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the now-deceased leader of the Islamic State terror group.
Soleimani was reportedly the country’s top and most revered military commander and was often referred to as the “spymaster” or the “shadow commander.” His death was confirmed by Iranian officials on Thursday night, according to an Iraqi news agency.
Iraqi officials also confirmed that another top Iranian military leader was killed in the rocket attack. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, was confirmed dead.
BREAKING: Iran confirms Gen.Qasem Sulaimani was killed in Iraq tonight.
Source: IRGC, Tasnim.
"Gen. Sulamini joined his martyred friends," wrote IRGC military expert Hossein Dalirian. #Iraq
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) January 3, 2020
It was widely reported on Thursday night that the United States was responsible for the attack. The Pentagon released a statement confirming that the U.S. was behind the attack that killed the infamous Iranian leader.
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.
He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel,” the statement read.
The rocket attack came on the heels of a deadly escalation between the two countries, after a retaliatory American airstrike on Iranian-backed militia targets, which was in response to the Iranian-backed militias killing of a U.S. contractor last week.
Trump, less than an hour after news broke of the Baghdad rocket attack that claimed the lives of several top Iranian commanders, tweeted out a picture of the American flag with no caption, drawing speculation that it was a reference to the attack on the dangerous Iranian military leader.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
Trump’s style of diplomacy with Iran — a country who essentially trademarked the “Death to America” chant, is in stark contrast to that of former President Barack Obama’s handling of the rogue nation.
In 2016, the Obama administration sent Iran a literal pallet of $1.7 billion in cold, hard cash. The unprecedented payment was reportedly the final outcome of a decades-old arbitration between the United States and Iran, but came coincidentally at the same time that Iran agreed to released four U.S. prisoners.
The Obama administration insisted that the release of the prisoners was completely unrelated to the large cash transfer, but the move resulted in tremendous backlash and criticism from the Republican side of the aisle.
This story may be updated to include breaking events throughout the night, as warranted.