Late Thursday EST, early Friday morning Iraqi time, Iran’s elite Quds force commander, Major General Qassim Soleimani, was killed in an airstrike in Iraq that took place at Baghdad International Airport, just days after violent protest at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. As leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, the 62-year-old bore responsibility for Iran’s clandestine operations abroad, quietly extending the military reach, intelligence activities, and terrorist operations of Iran deep into other countries and foreign conflicts such as those in Syria, Afghanistan, Yeman and Iraq.

How did this occur? At the direction of the President, the U.S. military took decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Soleimani as the opportunity arose on Thursday. The strike, a U.S. “counter-terror” operation, occurred as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis head of Hashed Shaabi, Kataeb Hezbollah, had arrived to the airport in a convoy to receive Soleimani whose plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike occurred as soon as he descended from the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and his companions, killing them all. This of course indicates that the U.S. had intelligence on Soleimani’s aircraft and its destination to Baghdad IAP.

But it is also important to realize that while General Soleimani was subsequently killed in this strike at Baghdad IAP, he had been previously targeted, but escaped a U S. drone strikes on Sunday morning in Kirkuk Iraq where intelligence had indicated he was possibly present.

Understand that the killing of Soleimani did not happen in a vacuum, but after a steady escalation of Iranian attacks on the U.S. — most recently, the violent protests and assault against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. Despite the political-left’s and the mainstream media’s best efforts to manufacture yet another false narrative attempting to call it “President Trump’s Benghazi,” the violence was not some sort of organic populist reaction to recent U.S. airstrikes. Nor was it a sequel to the hapless Obama administration’s reaction to the terrorist assault on the U.S. compound in Libya. It was the latest example of Iran’s aggression against America that had been orchestrated to distract Iraqis from Iran’s malevolence and the regimes failing domestic and economic situation in their nation.

Further, it is important to understand, this effort and strategy by the U.S. is to prevent another void in the region, now that ISIS has for the most part been rolled up, and the Islamic States leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi was killed by Delta Force in Syria on October 27, 2019. 

We knew that orders from the Ayatollah were given to Soleimani and his the IRGC Quds Force to move in rapidly to fill that void. President Trump wasted no time to make sure this would not happen.

The most important aspect of this effort to ensure U.S. legal authority has been that General Soleimani, as the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force had been designated by the U.S. State Department and approved by the U.S. Congress, to be listed as an international terrorist and the IRGC Quds force designated an international foreign terrorist organization. That designation was approved on April 15, 2019 with the IRGC added to the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, which includes 67 other terrorist organizations including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Kataeb Hezbollah, and al-Ashtar Brigades, supported by Iran and the IRGC Quds Force, led by Soliemani.

So why such a sudden strike happen? Why did this occur? The reason is that U.S. Intelligence has indicated that General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” according to an official statement by the White House, the Pentagon and the Department of State. The statement further noted that “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,” the Pentagon added in a statement on Thursday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

As previously mentioned, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Hashed Shaabi, Kataeb Hezbollah, the Shiite Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, aka the MPF, the Iranian-backed militant militia responsible for the violent protests and attempted assault on the U.S. embassy in Iraq earlier this week, was also killed in the airstrike, according to Iraqi state media. Certainly an indication and proof that Soleimani work working directly with the MPF. As of the writing of this article senior Pentagon officials said that both al-Muhandis and Soleimani were killed, and that DNA results were pending. Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore. At roughly the same time, according to a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces said in a statement “The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassim Soleimani,” thus validating Soleimani’s death. Earlier Friday, an official with an Iran-backed paramilitary force said that seven people were killed by a missile fired at Baghdad International Airport, blaming the United States.

It should also be noted that Soleimani had been rumored dead several times, including in a 2006 airplane crash that killed other military officials in northwestern Iran and following a 2012 bombing in Damascus that killed top aides of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. In more recent years, rumors circulated in November 2015 that Soleimani was killed or seriously wounded leading forces loyal to al-Assad as they fought around Syria’s Aleppo.

As I mention in the opening, earlier this week we witnessed the work of the IRGC Quds force supporting both Iranian-back PMF militia, and its elements including Hashed Shaabi – Hezbollah and sympathizers and their corroborated and orchestrated the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone on New Year’s Eve, prompting the U.S. to send in additional U.S. Marine security reinforcements to secure the Embassy and its massive 143-acre compound. The attacks followed an IRGC rocket barrage on December 27, which killed one American contractor and wounded four U.S. military members. The U.S. responded to that attack with a drone-airstrike that reportedly killed 25 Iranian-backed PMF militia militants.  

Also, it should be mentioned that the U.S. previously had intelligence this past weekend that General Soleimani was located in the series of facilities that were struck by U.S. drone missiles on Sunday, but the General was able to escape the strike. But we also knew his plans and that he was fully in the operational mode. This prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday to warn in a statement that the U.S. “will not accept continued attacks against our personnel and forces in the region.”  That “… attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner, and place of our choosing,” Esper went on to say, “We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities.” In hind sight, a statement suggesting we were on Soleimani’s trail.

Major General Qassim Soleimani

So most people, until his death Thursday have never heard of Qassim Soleimani and will cause many to ask — Who was Soleimani?

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassim Soleimani stands at the frontline of Iran’s international terrorist activities. Soleimani has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist for his ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which again has been designated by the U.S. last year. As previously referenced, Iran’s elite Quds force that is responsible for Iran’s world-wide international terrorist activities and support. The IRGC, through the Quds force provided lethal aid to Hezbollah, to the Taliban and other extremist groups throughout the Middle East and South West Asia. Quds Force supports non-state actors in many countries, including Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Yemeni Houthis, and Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Additionally, General Solemani makes regular visits to all such locations, which of course is why we have been closely tracking and where we wanted to target him, outside of Iran. General Soleimani I might add, is notorious for taking risks and inserting himself into ‘danger zones’ on the front lines across the Middle East region, making him a target. That successfully happened on Thursday.

Over his career and under his leadership, General Soleimani was responsible for numerous attacks on U.S. troops and facilities to include; Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia attack in 1996, killing 19 U.S. military members, the U.S. Embassy attack in Kuwait 2011, and over 600 U.S. military forces in Iraq using explosively formed penetrator (EFP), also known as an explosively formed projectile, a self-forging warhead improvised explosive devices against armored vehicles. 

General Soleimani and the Iranian regime is responsible for the deaths of 17% of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, and is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies.

As stated, General Soleimani commands the Quds force, which the IRGC trained in unconventional warfare in order to operate and conduct terrorist operations beyond Iran’s borders, including Syria and Iraq. His influence in the region has been met with consternation by U.S. officials, who widely allege that his actions have been designed to deliberately further destabilized the region.

The General has commanded the Quds force for over 20-years and has since provided military aid to militant groups designated as terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and Israel. In 2007, the U.S. designated Soleimani as a terrorist and imposed sanctions against him, pointing towards the roughly $100-$200 million that was provided to Hezbollah, and the military weapons that were subsequently provided to the Taliban.

In addition, Soleimani’s Quds Force provides lethal support in the form of weapons, training, funding, and guidance to select groups of Iraqi Shi’a militants who target and kill Coalition and Iraqi forces and innocent Iraqi civilians

Soleimani was also sanctioned in 2011, when the U.S. discovered he was involved in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC. The IRGC Quds Force plotted a brazen terrorist attack against the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. on American soil. Fortunately, this plot was foiled.

In recent years, the IRGC Quds Force terrorist planning has been uncovered and disrupted in many countries, including Germany, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Bahrain, and Turkey. Despite the sanctions and travel bans, Soleimani traveled throughout the world, including Russia, and met with numerous senior officials to parlay his terrorist support. Noticed I said “sanctioned” as that occurred the Obama administration.

Finally, there are reports that Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini had designs for Soleimani to perhaps eventually remove President Bashir al-Assad in Syria and replace him with Solemani to take over as the Syrian President. There were numerous efforts since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 where Soleimani sent numerous messages to al-Assad by way of assassination attacks against the Syrian President’s senior aids, military officers and family members. While the Syrian government publically made statements justifying the attacks by enemies, they knew all too well these were at the hands of Soleimani who was sending a message; be careful, listen to the Supreme Leader or else.

So where does this leave Iran internally. Soliemani’s death is a potential turning point in the Middle East and the regime in Tehran. Soleimani’s death is expected to draw severe reaction from Iran and the forces it backs in the Middle East against Israel and American interests. U.S. officials have suggested they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq against Iran to protect American forces, U.S. interests in the region. I can almost assure anyone that is of the notion that the U.S. is going to invade or go to war directly with Iran. That is not the intent of this president or a rational approach to U.S. policy in the region. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen — as much as many are trying to imply, with others almost invoking it. Further, as some, I’ll call them morons tried to indicate that some members of President Trump’s cabinet, senior White House officials and advisors, or military leadership have the authority to by-pass or side-step the President to do an end run to get us into a war with Iran. That would be illegal and is a violation of the Constitution! Certainly that’s not going to happen on this president’s watch.

What’s equally concerning and perhaps more so is the critical strategic importance of what is currently going on inside Iran.

Iran is very close to collapse internally, this may just help push it over the edge, as Soleimani was also in-charge of the IRGC Basij forces, Iran’s brutal secret police who in November had put down anti-regime protests and demonstration in 192 cities across Iran, with upwards of 2,000 Iranians arrested and murdered by Soleimani’s forces on his orders.

The uprisings have been increasing due to the severe and grave impact that U.S. sanctions against the regime have been having on Iran. Hence their purpose. Iranian’s are fed- up with the regimes totalitarian retaliation against the Iranian people and the dire situation that is occurring inside Iran.  

What will become of the increasing brutal and measures of desperation by the regime, remains to be seen. We can only pray that unlike in 2009 when a similar uprising by the Green Revolution took hold across Iran, with the possibility of an overthrow of the regime — the Obama administration stood-down offering no political, diplomatic, or financial support to back the final push of the revolution. The regime responded, crushing the uprising and jailing and murdering thousands of Iranians who had hoped finally from Democratic change against the brutal grip of the regime. 

As it stands now, Iranians online are cheering the killing of Major General Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad early Friday local time. Many Iranians are thanking President Trump with a hashtag that reads: #TnxPOTUS4Soleimani. 

Certainly, Iranian malevolence justified Trump’s order to kill Qassim Soleimani. The truth is that Trump deserves enormous credit for the bold move of eliminating a critical figure who has done more to destabilize the Middle East than perhaps any single figure.