By Dale Hurd
Iran has vowed “harsh retaliation” for a US drone strike that killed Tehran’s top terror chief in the Middle East.
President Trump ordered the operation Thursday, which is already being called “a seismic event in the Middle East.”
It targeted Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force who was considered to be one of the most dangerous men in the world.
The airstrike against Soleimani took place as he was visiting Baghdad airport in Iraq, and a total of eight people were killed in the strike.
The remains of Soleimani were identified by his hand and the ring he wore.
The Pentagon said in a statement, “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…”
Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s operations throughout the region, and had been sanctioned by the US and the UN for supporting terrorism. A former CIA officer once told the New Yorker that Soleimani was the most powerful operative in the Middle East. He was so famous in Iran, a cut-out of his image greeted passengers at Tehran Airport.
After the successful attack, President Trump tweeted the American flag. The State Department urged American citizens to leave Iraq immediately.
The news caused spontaneous celebrations in Iraq, with some Iraqis dancing in the street.
Iraqi Ahmed Jabar said, “The killings will eliminate the corrupt parties which are destroying Iraq.”
In Lebanon, Soleimani built the radical Islamic group Hezbollah into a powerful state within a state that threatens Israel.
At Friday prayers in Iran, worshippers chanted “Death to America.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US, as did a spokesman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who cried during the interview on Iranian state TV.
Around 5,000 American troops are based in Iraq, where they mainly train Iraqi forces and help to combat the Islamic State.
Soleimani’s death is being called a “significant blow” to Iran. The US knew that Soleimani was behind this week’s attack on the US embassy in Baghdad and Defense Secretary Mark Esper had issued a warning Thursday, saying on MSNBC, “Enough is enough. We have all the capabilities to either respond to further attacks or take preemptive action if additional attacks are being prepared.”
And Trump had responded to the Iranian militia assault on the Baghdad embassy by saying he would not allow this situation to turn into another Benghazi-style attack against a US embassy.
US officials have made it clear they are prepared to meet any response from Iran.
To quote Defense Secretary Esper, “The game has changed.”