Trump ordered killing of Soleimani to protect US personnel abroad: Pentagon

PTI

Photo of White House from www.whitehouse.gov

Photo of White House from www.whitehouse.gov

General Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was killed in a precision US airstrike in Iraq ordered by President Donald Trump, the Pentagon announced on Friday, dramatically escalating tensions in the strategic Gulf region.

General Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed following a US airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday. The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

The Pentagon confirmed the death of Soleimani, 62, in Iraq, saying the strike was carried out at the direction of Trump.

“At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation,” the Pentagon said.

Following Soleimani’s death, President Trump, now on vacation in Florida, did not comment immediately, except for tweeting an image of the US flag.

The strike comes days after Trump threatened Tehran after Iraqi supporters of pro-Iranian regime factions laid siege to the US embassy in Baghdad, following deadly American airstrikes on a hardline Hashed faction.

The Pentagon alleged that the strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.

“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,” it alleged.

It said that Soleimani had “orchestrated” attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27 – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.

General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” it said.

The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world,” it said.

Reacting to Soleimani’s death, Iran said the country and the “free nations of the region” will take revenge on the United States.

“There is no doubt that the great nation of Iran and the other free nations of the region will take revenge for this gruesome crime from criminal America,” President Hasan Rouhani said, referring to Iran’s allies across the Middle East.

Soleimani’s “martyrdom … by the aggressor and criminal America has saddened the heart of the nation of Iran and all the nations of the region,” he said in a statement posted on the Iranian government website.

His death had “redoubled the determination of the nation of Iran and other free nations to stand against America’s bullying and defend Islamic values”, he said.

Trump’s decision was supported by his former Cabinet colleague, Indian American Nikki Haley, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Ties between the US and Iran have deteriorated since Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018. It then reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran, aiming to choke off its oil exports.

(PTI)