The US killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, chief of the elite Quds Force and spearhead of Iran’s spreading military influence in the Middle East, on Friday in an airstrike at Baghdad airport, the Pentagon stated.
Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, was also killed in the offensive, a militia spokesperson stated.
The high-profile assassinations are likely to be a big hit to Iran, which has been locked in a long battle with the U.S. that increased sharply last week with the storming of the U.S. embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian militiamen after a US air raid on the Kataib Hezbollah militia, founded by Muhandis.
The U.S. delegates, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that Soleimani had been killed in a drone offensive Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), the parasol grouping of Iran-supported militias, blamed the U.S. and Israel.
Soleimani’s killing highlights a dramatic intensification in the regional “shadow conflict” between Iran and the U.S. and its associates, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could shortly ratchet up tit-for-tat strikes – all the way to the brink of all-out war.
The slain commander’s Quds Force, together with its stable of paramilitary agents from Lebanon’s Hezbollah to the PMF in Iraq – battle-hardened militias armed with missiles – has enough means to launch a multi-barrelled response against its attackers.
In September, U.S. delegates blamed Iran for devastating missiles and drones attack on oil installations of Saudi Aramco, the Saudi state energy titan, and the world’s largest oil producer. The U.S. administration didn’t reply, beyond heated bombast and perils.