On 4 January, the funeral procession for Soleimani, al-Muhandis, and the Iraqi and Iranian militants was held in Baghdad and attended by thousands of mourners who chanted "death to America, death to Israel". Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was also present. The cortege began around Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, a Shiite holy site in Baghdad, before heading to the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound where a state funeral was held. From Baghdad, the procession moved to the Shia holy city of Karbala and on to Najaf, where al-Muhandis and the other Iraqis were buried, while the coffins of Soleimani and the Iranian nationals were sent to Iran. Following the mourning procession in Baghdad, unknown people fired short-range rockets towards the U.S. embassy and at the U.S. Balad Air Base. The U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, said no Americans were harmed by the sporadic rocket attacks on 4 January.
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 the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), the country's state-run news outlet, Iran fired "tens of ground-to-ground missiles" at the base and claimed responsibility for the attacks. The attacks unfolded in two waves, each about an hour apart. The Pentagon said these bases were on high alert after signs of the Iranian government were planning attacks on U.S. forces. Although the Pentagon disputes the number launched, it has confirmed that both the Ayn al-Asad and the Erbil airbases were hit by Iranian missiles. A military spokesman for U.S. Central Command said a total of 15 missiles were fired. Ten hit the Ayn al-Asad airbase, one hit the Erbil base, and four missiles failed. Other sources confirmed that two ballistic missiles targeted Erbil: one hit Erbil International Airport and did not explode, the other landed about 20 miles (32 km) west of Erbil. On 8 January Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said the Kingdom would stand with Iraq and do everything in its power to spare it from the "danger of war and conflict between external parties".More Info
On 31 December 2019, after a funeral was held for the Kata'ib Hezbollah militiamen, dozens of Iraqi Shia militiamen and their supporters marched into the Green Zone and surrounded the U.S. embassy compound. Dozens of the demonstrators then smashed through a main door of the checkpoint, set fire to the reception area, raised Popular Mobilization Units militia flags, left anti-American posters, and sprayed anti-American graffiti. U.S. president Donald Trump accused Iran of orchestrating the attack on the embassy and added that they would be held "fully responsible". Iran's foreign ministry denied they were behind the protests.More Info
Soleimani and al-Muhandis' deaths raised tensions between the U.S. and Iran. As stated by France 24, the targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani "caused alarm around the world, amid fears that Iranian retaliation against American interests in the region could spiral into a far larger conflict". The New York Times contrasted the attack to Operation Vengeance in World War II, when American pilots shot down the plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, which the paper said was "the last time the United States killed a major military leader in a foreign country".More Info
A spokesman for the Iranian government said the country's top security body would hold an extraordinary meeting shortly to discuss the "criminal act of attack". Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that "retaliation is waiting". On 4 January, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there was "no specific, credible" threat to the U.S. mainland but warned about Iranian capabilities. Trump warned Tehran that any retaliation would result in the U.S. targeting 52 Iranian significant sites, including cultural sites. The 52 sites were reported to represent the 52 American hostages held during the Iran hostage crisis. Hossein Dehghan, the main military adviser of Iran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asserted that attacks on Iranian cultural sites would be grave breaches of international law. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo avoided a direct answer when asked about cultural targets, saying that Washington will do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with U.S. law. U.S. secretary of defense Mark Esper later asserted that cultural sites would not be targeted because "That's the laws of armed conflict."More Info
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