The remains of Soleimani and the Iranian figures killed in the strike arrived in Iran on 5 January, where they became part of mourning processions in several cities, first in Ahvaz and later in Mashhad, where one million people attended the mourning. It was initially reported that Iran canceled the mourning procession planned in Tehran because the city would not be able to handle the number of attendees expected after the turnout in Mashhad; however, the Tehran service was held, at which Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly wept while leading prayers for the funeral. Iranian state media said the crowd of mourners numbered in the "millions", reportedly the biggest since the 1989 funeral of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iranian authorities planned to take Soleimani's body to Qom on 6 January for public mourning processions, then onto his hometown of Kerman for final burial on 7 January. Before the national procession was completed, multiple infrastructure works, such as the international airport at Ahvaz and an expressway in Tehran, had already been renamed after him. The funeral was boycotted by critics of the current government by using the hashtag #IraniansDetestSoleimani for the IRGC's war crimes. The hashtag was amplified by "inauthentic" accounts almost immediately after creation.
On 3 January 2020, a United States drone strike near Baghdad International Airport targeted and killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) while he was reportedly planned to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad. Soleimani was commander of the Quds Force—which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain—and was considered the second most powerful person of Iran, subordinate to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Nine others were killed alongside Soleimani, including four Iranian and five Iraqi nationals such as deputy chairman of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and commander of the Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis—a designated terrorist in the U.S. and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).More Info
According to a report by NBC News, Eric Edelman, a career foreign services officer with senior diplomatic posts at the time, U.S. commander Army Gen. George Casey considered designating Soleimani and Quds Force officers enemy combatants, thus making them subject to military action. However, the idea was ruled out over concerns of opening a "new front" in the war. Edelman stated, "There were a lot of us who thought he should be taken out. But at the end of the day, they decided not to do that," due to concern of starting simultaneous conflict with Iran.More Info
In early October 2019, according to two Iraqi militia commanders and two security sources who spoke with Reuters staff, Iranian Major-General Qasem Soleimani met in Baghdad to discuss a change in strategy with Iraqi Shiite militia allies. The new focus of strategy was to be an increase in targeted rocket attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, with the intended effect of provoking an antagonistic U.S. military response that would divert political pressure from Iran. Leading up to the meeting, there had been increasing anti-Iran sentiment amongst the local Iraqi population, culminating in prolonged and vocal anti-Iran protests, even featuring such specific displays of anti-Iran sentiment as demonstrators banging their shoes on raised portraits of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran, concerned about losing hard won influence in Iraq, had resorted to increasingly violent means to counter this resentment. These means, under direct guidance of Soleimani, resulted in the deaths of at least 400 protestors, with an estimated 20,000 wounded, but without significant success. The next step in the strategy chosen by Soleimani was to step up attacks on U.S. forces. Kataib Hezbollah was picked because, according to Soleimani it "would be difficult to detect by the Americans", as well as be able to utilize Iran-provided scout drones for more precision in target selection for the rocket attacks.More Info
Ever since the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88), in which Iran felt attacked not only by Saddam Hussein's Iraq but by the international community siding with Saddam against Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic republic in Tehran, with notably the U.S. supplying weapons and intelligence to Iraq, Soleimani had developed into the architect of all of Iran's foreign policies in the Middle East, and a key figure in all of Iran's foreign and defence policies. He provided crucial support to President Bashar al-Assad's regime during the Syrian Civil War. He even wrote U.S. General David Petraeus, then Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, a letter in early 2008 to tell him: "General Petraeus, you must know that I, Qasem Soleimani, am in charge of the Iranian policies concerning Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan".More Info
On the same day of the Baghdad airport attack, an IRGC financier and key commander, Abdul Reza Shahlai, was unsuccessfully targeted by U.S. drones in Yemen, which killed Mohammad Mirza, a Quds Force operative, instead. Shahlai was also responsible for the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala, Iraq on 20 January 2007.According to a Washington Post investigation, the unsuccessful operation might indicate a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated.More Info
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