Iran’s Qassim Soleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in American airstrikes near Baghdad International Airport. Iraqi TV and U.S. sources confirmed the death of the leader of the Iranian Revolution Guard’s elite black ops Quds Force Thursday, along with the Iraqi leader of an Iran-aligned militia reportedly responsible for the attack on the U.S. embassy and the rocket attacks that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded U.S. soldiers.
The news comes as Iran and the United States appear to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war. Days before, Kata’ib Hezbollah, a powerful Iranian-linked Iraqi militia, fired rocket attacks that killed and wounded Americans. The U.S. military launched several retaliatory airstrikes on the group, destroying headquarters and weapons storage in Iraq and Syria and killing scores of militiamen. Iran promised swift retribution, with its affiliated militiamen storming the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in a multi-day attack allowed to take place by Iraqi troops guarding the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Soleimani has been a constant if shadowy figure in the Middle East, appearing where conflicts rage and disappearing just as quickly. His elite Quds Force carries out irregular warfare and intelligence for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the enforcers of the ayatollahs’ revolution and the holders of Iran’s nuclear technology. Forces under Soleimani’s command are reportedly responsible for the deaths of at least 500 U.S. military personnel during the Iraq War.
Soleimani, 62, was head of the elite Quds Force since 1988. In those years it has been reported active in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Germany, India, Afghanistan, South America and Washington, D.C.