Last Thursday, President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike. The strike hit two cars that were leaving the international airport in Baghdad, Iraq. Five people died. Among the dead were Iranian militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Major General Qassem Soleimani. Now U.S. leaders are preparing for the “possibility of Iranian action” as payback.
The targeted attack came after the killing of an American contractor in Iraq and intelligence reports about Iranian plots against the United States.
Soleimani was a respected figure in Iran. His death sparked huge displays of anger and grief. Some believe the strike against him could draw the United States and Iran closer to conflict. Iran has already threatened more nuclear development and violence because of the strike. U.S. officials are also aware that Iran could try to harm a high-level American leader. One official says the United States expects a “major” attack within the next few days.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Maritime Administration put out the warning for ships in the Middle East. The warning cites rising threats after Soleimani’s killing.
Iran and the United States have moved from one flare-up to another since President Trump began his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran shortly after taking office in 2016. He repealed the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed crushing economic policies.
Some lawmakers complain that President Trump did not provide advance notice of his airstrike in Baghdad. Such notice would have given civilians time to flee. Others point out that the strike was extremely precise, hitting only two vehicles.
Army General Mark Milley says U.S. intelligence showed Soleimani was plotting attacks soon. He believes the United States would have been wrong not to act. “[An attack] was imminent,” he says. “It was very, very clear in scale and scope. Did it exactly say who, what, when, and where? No, but he was planning, coordinating, and synchronizing significant operations against U.S. military forces in the region, and it was imminent.”
(Members of the Iranian American community of Washington, D.C., who support the overthrow of Iran’s government, rally outside the State Department in Washington, Monday, January 6. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)