Moments after the news that the U.S. airstrikes had successfully killed top Iranian General Soleimani, Secretary Pompeo tweeted a video of Iraqis dancing in the street for freedom.
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more.
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more. pic.twitter.com/huFcae3ap4
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020
The BBC reports as head of its military abroad known as the Quds Force, Soleimani was the mastermind behind the country’s activities across in the Middle East, and its real foreign minister when it came to matters of war and peace.
He was widely considered an architect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war against rebels in Syria, the rise of pro-Iranian paramilitaries in Iraq, the fight against the Islamic State group, and many battles beyond.
Charismatic and often elusive, the silver-haired commander was revered by some, loathed by others, and a source of myths and social media memes.
As far back as 2013, former CIA officer John Maguire told The New Yorker that Soleimani was “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East”.
When his end came, it was violent and sudden. On 3 January the Pentagon announced that it had carried out a successful operation to kill him, at the direction of US President Donald Trump.
The assassination followed a sharp escalation between the US, Iran and Iran-backed groups in Iraq following the death of a US military contractor in a missile attack on a US base in Iraq – for which the US held Iran responsible.
The US responded with an air strike on the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah. Militia supporters then attacked the US embassy in Baghdad.
Tensions between the US and Iran had been rising since the US pulled out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. The US has also reimposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
In April 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force as foreign terrorist organisations.
The Trump administration has said the Quds Force provided funding, training, weapons and equipment to US-designated terrorist groups in the Middle East – including Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group based in Gaza.
In a statement, the Pentagon said Soleimani had been “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.
“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” it added.