The country of Iraq was on edge after the killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani. It was reported that an ‘angry’ funeral procession made its way through Baghdad. The bad blood between USA and Iran didn’t end there, with Iranian officials and President Donald Trump trading threats of escalating military action.
U.S. drone strikes ripped through two cars traveling outside Baghdad’s international airport, killing Maj. Gen. Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia leader, along with eight other people.
Iran immediately vowed to seek revenge for the killing of Soleimani, as the Trump administration announced that it was sending thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.
An Iranian commander quoted by the Tasnim News Agency on Saturday suggested that dozens of U.S. facilities and military assets in the Middle East were at risk, along with Israel, a key U.S. ally.
“Thirty-five vital American positions in the region are within the reach of the Islamic Republic, and Tel Aviv,” the commander, Brig. Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, was quoted as saying. “The Strait of Hormuz is a vital thoroughfare for the West, and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf,” he added.
Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia backed by Iran, warned members of Iraqi security forces to keep more than half a mile from U.S. military bases, beginning Sunday evening. The militia, which led a siege of the U.S. Embassy before Soleimani’s killing, did not say why it issued the warning.
Donald Trump, tweeted from his personal resort in West Palm Beach, Fla., appeared to be responding in kind when he said that the United States had targeted multiple sites in Iran and that those targets would be struck should U.S. military sites be attacked or Americans harmed. He also repeated the administration’s justification for Soleimani’s killing, referring to the Iranian commander as a “terrorist leader” who had been planning additional attacks.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State said that “we have increased security and defensive measures at the Iraqi bases that host anti-ISIS coalition troops. Our command places protection of U.S. forces, as well as our allies and security partners in the coalition, as the top priority; we remain vigilant and resolute.”
NATO announced that it was suspending its training of troops in Iraq and the United States said that it had stepped up security at military bases in the country. The Department of Homeland Security issued a public bulletin about the potential threat for terrorism in the United States amid the surging tensions, while repeating assurances given earlier this week that U.S. officials do not know of any specific, credible threat to the United States.
The focal point of the anxiety was Baghdad, where thousands of people joined a funeral procession for Soleimani and Muhandis on Saturday as helicopters shadowed the crowds. “Death to America, death to Israel,” people chanted. “We will take our revenge!”
Later Saturday, rockets were fired toward Baghdad’s Green Zone, site of the U.S. Embassy, and at an air base hosting U.S. troops north of Baghdad, but they caused no casualties, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials, who did not say who fired the rockets.