Two top Iranian military officials were recently killed in what is suspected to be a United States airstrike.
It appears that the United States may have just entangled itself in another deep and complex war abroad. After the murder of Iranian military commander General Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in an airstrike conducted at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday, political ties are expected to heat up. One other Iranian military official, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the airstrike. At present, the PMF has charged the United States with their murders, CNBC reports. Their deaths will be a major "turning point" in the region, experts claim.
The deaths of General Soleimani and al-Muhandis were confirmed by a senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official to the Associated Press. Additionally, two militia leaders loyal to Iran, including an official affiliated with the Kataeb Hezbollah (an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group involved in the attack on the United States Embassy earlier this week) also confirmed the army officials' deaths. The latter official, affiliated with the Kataeb Hezbollah, spoke on the condition of anonymity. They explained that the attack took place when al-Muhandis arrived at Baghdad International Airport in a convoy to receive Soleimani whose plane had just landed from either of two nearby countries, Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike took place as soon as General Soleimani exited the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and his companions. The attack killed all those present.
Therefore, severe retaliation can be expected from Iran and the forces it backs in the Middle East, placing the interests of both Iran and the United States in a rather unfortunate and rocky position. Both Israel and the United States have chosen to remain mum regarding the airstrike; official statements are yet to be released from both countries. The airstrike is especially significant as political ties between the US and Iran have been strained over the past few months, owing particularly to an attack on the US Embassy on New Year's Eve allegedly orchestrated by Iran-backed militia groups.
The attack at the Embassy prompted United States forces to launch airstrikes on Sunday, which killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia group in Iraq, Kataeb Hezbollah. The airstrikes have explicitly been labeled a form of retaliation to the incident at the US Embassy. To escalate the issue even further, US officials had claimed at the time that "they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq." "The game has changed," affirmed Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday, telling reporters that continued military force should not come as a surprise. Was the United States responsible for the death of General Soleimani and al-Muhandis? Only time will tell. However, given the United States' track record for involvement in overseas bloodshed, it would not be unwise to respond in the affirmative.