‘Harsh retaliation awaiting’: Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei after US strike kills Gen Soleimani

US airstrike today at Baghdad airport: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was killed along with 7 others in an early morning airstrike at Baghdad airport today, the Pentagon confirmed. Hours later, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said ‘a harsh retaliation is waiting’. He also declared three days of mourning in the country.

US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Maj. General Qasem Soleimani, who died in an airstrike on the Baghdad International Airport early Friday, the Pentagon said. Hours later, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said ‘a harsh retaliation is waiting’.

“All Enemies should know that the jihad of resistance will continue with a doubled motivation, and a definite victory awaits the fighters in the holy war,” Khamenei said in a statement carried by TV, Reuters reported. He also declared three days of mourning in the country.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said the move by the US was “an extremely dangerous and foolish escalation.”

Issuing a statement on the air strike, the US Department of Defense said, “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.”

Confirming the same, the White House tweeted, “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 Organization.”

Responding to this, Zarif posted on the micro-blogging site: “The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting and assassinating General Soleimani—THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al—is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

Iraqi and Lebanese television also reported Soleimani’s death, which was confirmed by senior militia leaders in Iraq.

The killing of Soleimani could further strain ties between Iran and US and escalate President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the former, which began with economic sanctions but has steadily moved into the military arena.

The strike also comes a day after Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper warned that the United States military would pre-emptively strike Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria if there were signs the paramilitary groups were planning more attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region.

“If we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” Esper said, adding, “The game has changed.”

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