Qassem Soleimani was ‘torn to shreds’ by a US missile and his body had to be identified by his RING: Pentagon drone launched four rockets at car carrying Iranian general after he arrived from Syria to meet ringleaders of embassy attack

  • US airstrike killed General Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in Baghdad
  • The attack unfolded early on Friday local time in a precision strike on two cars that were carrying Soleimani 
  • Soleimani had just arrived in Baghdad on a flight from Syria and was leaving the airport when he was hit
  • Attack also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of Iranian militias in Iraq which led attacks on US embassy

Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds force, was among five people killed when an American Reaper drone fired missiles at two cars carrying him and other senior officials out of Baghdad airport early Friday morning.

The senior general, commonly known as the second-most powerful man in Iran and tipped as a future president, was so badly maimed in the strike that he had to be identified by a large ring he wore on his finger.

Soleimani had arrived at the airport on a plane from either Syria or Lebanon around 12.30am when he was met on the tarmac by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.

Muhandis pulled up to the aircraft steps in two cars before Soleimani and Mohammed Ridha Jabri, public relations chief for the PMF who had been traveling with him, climbed inside and were driven away.

Moments later, as the cars passed through a cargo area headed for an access road leading out of the airport, the convoy was struck by four missiles fired by an MQ-9 Reaper drone.

Both vehicles were instantly reduced to smoldering wrecks – killing Soleimani, Muhandis, Jabri and two others who have yet to be identified.

Soleimani had just arrived on a flight from Syria, and was in a car leaving the airport when missiles from a US drone killed him

Social media photos show burning wreckage of the US airstrike on two cars at Baghdad International Airport. Iranian officials and pro-Iran militia members were among those killed

Social media photos show burning wreckage of the US airstrike on two cars at Baghdad International Airport. Iranian officials and pro-Iran militia members were among those killed.

Two officials from the PMF said Soleimani’s body was torn to pieces in the attack, while they did not find the body of al-Muhandis. 

Commander of the Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani.

he commander of the Iranian Quds force, Gen Qassem Suleimani. Photograph: Mehdi Ghasemi/AFP via Getty Images

A senior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore. Photos from the scene show a hand with large ring that looks identical to one Soleimani is seen wearing in old photos.

Local militia commander Abu Muntathar al-Hussaini told Reuters:

‘Haj Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were riding in one vehicle when it was struck by two successive guided missiles launched from an American helicopter while they were on their way from the arrivals hall on the road that leads out of Baghdad Airport.’

He said the second vehicle was carrying bodyguards from the PMF and was hit by one rocket.

While American forces did not make it clear how they had tracked Soleimani’s location, he is thought to be kept under near-constant surveillance by US, Saudi and Israeli security forces.

The New York Times reported that Friday’s attack drew upon a combination of highly classified information from informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance techniques.

A senior politician said Soleimani's body was identified by the ring (above) he often wore

A senior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring (above) he often wore

 

The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (center in sunglasses), the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which were responsible for the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad

The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (center in sunglasses), the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which were responsible for the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad

 

The Defense Department said that the airstrike was justified to protect American lives.

‘General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,’ the Pentagon statement said.

The statement added that Soleimani ‘orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months’ including the embassy assault.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Soleimani’s assassination would strengthen resistance against the United States and Israel in the region and the world, Iranian state television reported.

‘The brutality and stupidity of American terrorist forces in assassinating Commander Soleimani … will undoubtedly make the tree of resistance in the region and the world more prosperous,’ Zarif said in a statement.

The high-profile assassinations are likely to be a massive blow to Iran, which has been locked in a long conflict with the United States that escalated sharply last week with an attack on the US embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian militiamen.

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020

The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force

The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force

Images taken after sunup on Friday show the twisted wreckage left behind by the US missile strike on two cars
Images taken after sunup on Friday show the twisted wreckage left behind by the US missile strike on two cars

Images taken after sunup on Friday show the twisted wreckage left behind by the US missile strike on two cars

Soleimani’s killing marks a dramatic escalation in the regional ‘shadow war’ between Iran and the US and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia, which could quickly ratchet up tit-for-tat attacks – all the way to the brink of all-out war.

A PMF official said the dead also included its airport protocol officer, identifying him as Mohammed Reda (above)

A PMF official said the dead also included its airport protocol officer, identifying him as Mohammed Reda (above)

The slain commander’s Quds Force, along with its stable of paramilitary proxies from Lebanon’s Hezbollah to the PMF in Iraq – battle-hardened militias armed with missiles – has ample means to launch a multi-barrelled response against its enemies.

In September, US officials blamed Iran for a devastating missiles and drones attack on oil installations of Saudi Aramco, the Saudi state energy giant and world’s largest oil exporter. The Trump administration did not respond, beyond heated rhetoric and threats.

Iran, for its part, has absorbed scores of air strikes and missile attacks, mainly carried out by Israel against its fighters and proxies in Syria and Iraq.

But analysts say Iran is likely to respond forcefully to the targeting of Soleimani, who it has built into a legend as its influence has spread across the region in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent occupation

Soleimani (right) is seen attending a religious ceremony with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a file photo. Soleimani was immensely popular in Iran and the Ayatollah has vowed 'harsh revenge'

Soleimani (right) is seen attending a religious ceremony with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a file photo. Soleimani was immensely popular in Iran and the Ayatollah has vowed ‘harsh revenge’

(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general on Thursday, and in his characteristic style, the president made sure the world knew who was responsible.

As reports filtered out from Iraq that Qassem Soleimani had been killed in a U.S. airstrike, some administration officials quietly acknowledged American involvement.

Then, a tweet from the president: an image of the American flag, absent any commentary. And finally, a statement from the Defense Department: Trump ordered a strike on Soleimani, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds force, to prevent attacks on U.S. personnel.

Trump’s decision to kill a man regarded as the second most powerful person in Iran was hailed by his allies as one of his boldest strokes in foreign policy and lambasted by his critics as likely his most reckless.

That the attack came two days into Trump’s re-election year, and while he faces an impeachment trial in the Senate, raised immediate suspicion among his opponents that his decision was politically motivated. And the repercussions, extending to the possibility of war, are unknown.

As a private citizen in 2011, Trump publicly accused President Barack Obama of planning war against Iran in order to secure his re-election because “he’s weak and he’s ineffective.”

But as president, Trump has shown — first by his withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria in September and now with the strike on Soleimani — that he will act in what he believes are the best interests of the country even in the face of potential consequences he and his advisers can in no way confidently predict.

Bracing for Retaliation

In Syria, there was little planning for the aftermath. The White House was braced for potential Iranian retaliation within U.S. borders, two officials said. One said that the government was on heightened alert, but the details of the administration’s preparations weren’t immediately clear.

Oil prices spiked more than 4% in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Preceding the strike, Trump’s government fell into silence. A Washington businessman who had scheduled dinner with a White House aide staying at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, said the meal was suddenly canceled and Trump aides went dark.

Immediately after Soleimani’s death, calls to press officers at the State Department went straight to voicemail. Later, one State Department official questioned whether the White House had thought through the next steps in its escalating confrontation of the Islamic Republic.

Political reaction fell along familiar party lines — buoyant praise from many Republican lawmakers and a string of Democratic statements that criticized Soleimani, blamed for the deaths of hundreds of American servicemen during the Iraq war, before questioning the wisdom of Trump’s move.

‘Dancing in the Street’

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo tweeted out a video that he said showed Iraqis “dancing in the street” over Soleimani’s death. A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, Kayleigh McEnany, said on Fox News that the killing was the “greatest foreign policy accomplishment, I would say of the decade, if not our lifetime” and sent “the unmistakable message that if you mess with Americans, you will pay a price as a terrorist.”

Democrats, though, warned of unpredictable consequences and said Trump should have informed Congress of such a provocative move.

“Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy,” former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner to challenge Trump’s re-election, said in a statement.

Demanding a Briefing

“This action was taken without the consultation of the Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region.”

The next move is likely the Iranian government’s to make. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed that “severe retaliation” awaits Soleimani’s killers, according to a statement broadcast on state media.

And the country’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, called the attack “an extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation” on Twitter and said the U.S. will bear “responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

The state-run Tasnim news agency said three days of mourning had been declared by the government.

“The U.S. will need to be ready,” said Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for Middle East affairs under President George W. Bush.