An American drone strike killed Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, at the Baghdad airport overnight. The strike was directed by President Trump, as confirmed by a statement issued by the Department of Defense, which called the strike a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad.” Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack, according to the Associated Press.
What is the IRGC?
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has existed as a branch of Iran’s military since 1979 and has become an influential and powerful force in Iran. In April 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had designated the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and he tweeted today that the strike was in response to the “continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force.” However, Pompeo also stated in multiple tweets Friday morning that “the U.S. remains committed to de-escalation.”
Meanwhile, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted that as the leader of the Quds force Suleimani was “THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al,” and called the strike “extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation.”
The domestic and international response
In a statement released last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the strike was not authorized by Congress, nor had the administration received an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran.
A Swiss diplomat is acting as a formal liaison between the two countries, but both countries’ presidents have taken to Twitter to issue their own public responses to the escalating tensions. Tweeting overnight, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president since 2013, said the country would retaliate for the “heinous” crime.
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. The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 3, 2020
In response, President Trump issued a thread on Soleimani’s death.
General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
According to the Associated Press, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the strike, which the AP calls “a potential turning point in the Middle East” and “a drastic change for American policy toward Iran after months of tensions.”
The U.S. Embassy in Iraq, and some foreign companies, are advising staff to evacuate the country, according to the Financial Times, which reported that oil prices had risen by 4% this morning.