Iranian political and military leaders threatened revenge for the death of revered commander Qasem Soleimani, while the Iraqi government condemned the U.S. attack as an “assassination” and violation of its sovereignty.
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike near the Baghdad International Airport. The Quds Force commander has been among America’s top adversaries in recent years helping sow discontent and instability across the Middle East for years.
Soleimani’s successor, Iran Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, was appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday, according to the Iran government-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency.
In a message to to Iran Friday, Khamenei described Soleimani as a martyr and called for revenge following his death.
“Martyrdom was his reward for years of implacable efforts. With his departure and with God’s power, his work and path will not cease and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood and the blood of the other martyrs of last night’s incident,” Khamenei said in a message to Iran, IRNA reported.
Iran state-run media Fars News Agency reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also vowed “revenge” for America’s “cowardly" act .
“There is no doubt that the great nation of Iran and the other free nations of the region will take revenge on this horrible crime from criminal America,” Rouhani said, according to Fars.
An Iranian military statement said America will “await a severe revenge which would make them regret their decision,” Fars reported.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani in a series of statements posted to social media Friday and called for a review of the strategic arrangement that allows U.S. forces to remain and operate in the country.
Anger out of Baghdad following the death of the Iranian military commander once again raises concerns about the viability of long-term plans to keep American troops in the country.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the assassination by US forces of Iraqi and Iranian figures who were symbols of the victory against Daesh,” Abdul-Mahdi said.
"Carrying out operations to assassinate Iraqi figures and figures from another country on Iraqi soil is a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation, Abdul-Mahdi said.
“The assassinations violate the conditions governing the presence of US forces in Iraq whose role is to train Iraqi forces and assist in the fight against Daesh as part of the Global Coalition, subject to the supervision and approval of the” Iraqi government, Abdul-Mahdi said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Abdul-Mahdi said he requested that Iraq’s parliament hold an emergency session to address “appropriate legislative measures in a manner that preserves the dignity, security and sovereignty of Iraq.”
Iraqi politicians and political elites harshly criticized U.S. airstrikes Dec. 29 that targeted an Iran-backed militia suspected of killing an American contractor in Kirkuk in a rocket attack. Some powerful political and religious leaders called for U.S. troops to leave the country.
Phillip Smyth, a research fellow for the Washington Institute, told Military Times that Soleimani’s successor, Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, is a competent field commander who recently served as the Quds-Force commander in Afghanistan.
Iran’s Quds Force conducts irregular and clandestine war outside of Iran and is tasked with exporting the country’s 1979 revolution. The elite fighting unit has been operating in low intensity conflicts across the Middle East countering U.S. and Western strategy and influence in the region.
The Pentagon said Thursday evening that Soleimani was responsible for orchestrating a number of attacks against coalition troops in Iraq and that the Iranian Quds Force commander was planning additional attacks targeting Americans.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.