Tensions between the United States and Iran escalated on Friday after a US air attack killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF.
The Pentagon confirmed the strike, saying it came “at the direction of the president”.
Soleimani and al-Muhandis’s deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and are expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the region against Israel and US interests.
Here are all the latest updates amid the heightened tensions as of Friday, January 3:
PMF spokesman: ‘US and Israeli enemy responsible’
Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for the PMF blamed the United States and Israel for Friday’s strikes.
“The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Iran state TV confirms Soleimani was ‘martyred’
Citing a Revolutionary Guard statement, Iranian state television said Soleimani was “martyred” in an attack by US helicopters near the airport, without elaborating.
Pentagon confirms Soleimani killed at ‘direction of the president’
The Pentagon confirmed in a statement that Soleimani was killed “at the direction” of US President Donald Trump.
“At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani,” a Pentagon statement said.
“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.”
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 head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 3, 2020
Trump tweets an image of an American flag
US President Donald Trump did not comment on the strikes, but shortly after reports surfaced of the raids, he tweeted a photo of an American flag.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
US Senator Murphy: Did Trump set off a potential massive regional war?
US Democratic Senator Chris Murphy questioned whether Trump needed congressional approval to target Soleimani.
“Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question,” Murphy tweeted. “The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question.
The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 3, 2020
US Senator Rubio: Quds Force chose the path of escalation
US Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that Iran’s “Quds Force chose the path of escalation”.
“Facing repeated #IRGC attacks the U.S. & @potus exercised admirable restraint while setting clear red lines & the consequences for crossing them
“#Iran’s Quds Force chose the path of escalation They are entirely to blame for bringing about the dangerous moment now before us.”
The defensive actions the U.S. has taken against #Iran & its proxies are consistent with clear warnings they have received
They chose to ignore these warnings because they believed @POTUS was constrained from acting by our domestic political divisions
They badly miscalculated
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 3, 2020
Former US Pentagon official: ‘No doubt’ US wanted to target Soleimani
Speaking to Al Jazeera, US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb said “there is no doubt” that the US wanted to target Soleimani “for a while”.
Iran’s Qassem Soleimani killed in a strike at Baghdad’s airport
General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force, has been reported killed alongside six others following an air strike at Baghdad’s international airport.
Iraqi officials and the state television reported that aside from Soleimani, Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack.
Read more here.
Read more about recent events leading to the heightened tensions
Iraq: Anti-government protesters denounce pro-Iran crowds
Iran may be planning attacks on US interests: Pentagon chief
Pro-Iran protesters leave US embassy compound in Baghdad
‘Iran is not afraid’: Why Tehran dismisses US threats over Iraq
US caught off guard as protesters storm Baghdad embassy: analysts
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