İrem UZUN -TDO- The assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in air raids by the United States has triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum. Soleimani, a 62-year-old general who headed the elite Quds Force, was regarded as the second most powerful figure in Iran after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran has vowed to take revenge for a U.S. drone strike that killed its most powerful general, as the US secretary of state attempted to minimize the fallout from the dramatic attack by stating Washington was "committed to de-escalation". The 62-year-old general died when his car was targeted by a drone in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, as local allies from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were driving him from the airport. The de facto leader of the PMF, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close Soleimani associate, was also killed in the attack.
The overnight attack, authorized by President Donald Trump, was a dramatic escalation in a "shadow war" in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia. Allegations have been raised, including by a UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, about the legality of the assassination under international law. A total of 10 people died, Iranian state television reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike aimed to disrupt an "imminent attack" that would have endangered Americans in the Middle East. Democratic critics said the Republican president had raised the risk of more violence in a dangerous region. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei paid tribute to him as a "martyr" and promised to exact "harsh revenge".