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By William Tucker
Contributor, In Homeland Security
A U.S. drone airstrike early Friday morning at Baghdad International Airport killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, along with several Iraqi militia officials.
A Department of Defense press release announced the U.S. action:
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem 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. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. 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. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
In essence, this is not an event to be taken lightly and Iran will respond.
Gen. Soleimani killed hundreds of Americans over the past two decades. His role in supporting the Syrian regime of Bashir al-Assad was vital to its survival during that nation’s civil war. Furthermore, Soleimani was responsible for overseeing the numerous Shia militias across the Middle East that are working to further Iranian interests.
Retaliation for Slaying of US Contractor Prompted Siege of American Embassy in Baghdad
The killing of a U.S. contractor during a militia-led rocket attack on an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk on December 27 prompted U.S. retaliation against Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militia group responsible for the deadly attack. The U.S. strike killed 25 militants, prompting Iran to order the short-lived, two-day siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
The embassy siege provoked U.S. retaliation yet again. This time the action targeted an individual Iranian leader directly, which most assuredly will lead to further escalation between the U.S. and Iran.
Though the U.S. possesses overwhelming military strike capabilities that can destroy much of Iran’s conventional military in a short time, Tehran has capabilities of its own. The widespread Shia militias across the Middle East are but one option. Perhaps most concerning is Iran’s ability to work with the Lebanese Hezbollah to attack U.S. interests internationally. Hezbollah is a capable terrorist organization with a long history of attacking soft targets on several continents.
Good counterterrorism and counterintelligence will play an important role in disrupting these operations before they get off the ground. Nevertheless, Iran and its militia allies are a threat to take seriously.
All told, this standoff is about to get worse.
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