On January 3rd, Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was killed in an airstrike ordered by President Trump. The strike has caused extremely high tensions between the US and Iran and has already led to consequences.
Soleimani’s death is ultimately the result of decades of conflict between the two countries, which can be traced back to 1979.
In 1979, the Iranian Revolution overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the US-backed leader of Iran. Iran now became an Islamic Republic. Soon after the revolution, several Americans were taken hostage in the US Embassy in Tehran by a group of Iranian students in response to the US allowing the ousted Shah into the US for medical care. Ever since the hostage crisis, the two countries have been political enemies.
Between 1979 and now, there have been various other problems between the two countries, including economic sanctions, a failed nuclear deal, more sanctions, and even a few alleged attacks from Iranian-backed militias.
Qasem Soleimani, who was widely regarded as the second-most powerful man in Iran, was speculated to have been involved in some of these issues with the US.
Soleimani had been in the Iranian military since the 80s, climbing the ranks over time. Before his death, Soleimani was the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force (Quds) which is an elite unit that deals with international operations and has been labeled as a terrorist organization by the US.
Soleimani has often been described as a charismatic military genius, making him popular among his soldiers and many of Iran’s citizens. He played a significant role in the fight against ISIS, where he was often on the battlefield in Iraq helping Shia Iraqi forces fight the terrorist group.
Some of Soleimani’s operations with Quds, however, caused him to be viewed in a much less popular light by the US. In fact, the Pentagon even accused him of causing thousands of American casualties.
During the Iraq War, for example, US officials believed he was providing insurgents with special bombs that were capable of penetrating body armor, which proved fatal for many Americans. In 2011, he was even accused of a failed assassination on US soil, where he oversaw an attempt to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US.
Recently, the Defense Department said he was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” They also accused him of overseeing attacks on coalition bases in Iraq, including an attack in December that killed an American contractor.
All these accusations are likely why Soleimani was assassinated in a drone strike last week, which also killed the leader of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force.
Shortly after the strike, Iran declared three days of mourning and vowed vengeance. Sure enough, Iran bombed a US military base in Iraq on January 8. There were no casualties, and many sources claim that Iran may have intentionally avoided this, as the bombs hit areas that were used to store equipment rather than personnel.
The recent assassination of Soleimani, as well as the recent bombing in response, have brought US-Iran tensions to what may be an all-time high. With both sides at odds, the near future will likely be a very delicate and important time for the two countries and even the Middle East as a whole.