Tensions have escalated over the past several days between Iran and the United States after a series of attacks and retaliatory strikes morphed into violent chaos at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. In response, on Thursday night, a rocket attack against a group of top-ranking Iranian officials, including General Qassem Soleimani, was confirmed to have been carried out by the U.S.
According to CNBC, General Qassem Soleimani, who was referred to as the “spy master” and “shadow commander,” and also acted as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was confirmed deceased by various Iranian and Iraqi news agencies.
There was an initial delay in comment from the Pentagon concerning the role that the U.S. had in the attack, but the Pentagon acknowledged that the strike was, in fact, carried out by the U.S., at the direction of President Donald Trump, in a strategic measure to protect endangered American lives.
“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 statement read. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
The statement went on to blame Soleimani for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition forces and also blamed him for approving the violent clashes at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which took place over a two-day period and resulted in property damage, but no confirmed U.S. casualties.
“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,” the Pentagon’s statement concluded.
The people of #iraq are in the streets celebrating the death of qasem soleimani. This mass murderer responsible for the death of thousands in #iraq and #Syria and all over the world he is responsible for the death of hundreds of American soldiers.pic.twitter.com/QMQrvBz10y— فيصل ابراهيم الشمري (@Mr_Alshammeri) January 3, 2020
In response to the embassy siege by Iranian-backed militia forces and their supporters, Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced several waves of reinforcements, including a 100-member U.S. Marine task force followed by the staging of 750 specialized soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. There are also plans to deploy several thousand more troops, should the situation warrant such an action.
Esper hinted earlier on Thursday that the U.S. would not hesitate to take drastic action against Iran if the threat level from the nation against U.S. interests increased.
“If we get word of attacks, we will take preemptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives. The game has changed,” Esper said.
As CNBC reported, some experts warn that the killing of Soleimani marks a significant escalation of force that could result in war with Iran. Also, oil prices began to rise overnight, following news of the rocket attack.