A major leader of Iranian forces in the Middle East has reportedly been killed in an airstrike in Baghdad. Qassem Soleimani, as The Washington Post reports, is a revered military leader, and his death will likely escalate tensions dramatically between Iran and the U.S.
Soleimani, who was the Quds Force Supreme Commander, was killed in a rocket attack that so far has not been claimed by anyone. Reportedly, militia members were hosting prominent guests when the airstrike hit. According to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, this may escalate tensions between Iran and the U.S., resulting in new airstrikes by Iranian forces against American troops in Iraq.
For months now, protests in Baghdad against the Iranian government have threatened any stability in the region. Soleimani has led the efforts to suppress these protestors, as Mediaite reports. The military leader has also reportedly led efforts to prevent the current Iraqi prime minister from being removed from office at the direction of Iran's Supreme Leader, making him a particularly influential individual in the Middle East.
The news comes amid increasing tensions in the region after the U.S. embassy in Iraq was attacked by protestors who broke into the facility, igniting fires, forcing diplomats into a safe room, and draping flags across the walls at the site. Hundreds of demonstrators shouted anti-American slogans, as The Inquisitr reported, even as Iraq's prime minister called for protestors to leave the area.
The demonstration came after repeated attacks by U.S. forces in the area in retaliation for the death of an American contractor in Iraq. On the day of the funerals for those killed in the retaliatory strikes, thousands demonstrated at the U.S. embassy.
President Donald Trump blamed the unrest, which is the most intense since the end of the Iraq war in 2011, on Iran."The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is, & has been for hours, SAFE! Many of our great Warfighters, together with the most lethal military equipment in the world, was immediately rushed to the site. Thank you to the President & Prime Minister of Iraq for their rapid response upon request," Trump tweeted. "Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!"
The Pentagon has refused to comment on the developments, but there were reports of gunfire near the area where the airstrike occurred in the wake of the attack.