The U.S. and its allies are on high alert in the Middle East after an American airstrike took out an Iranian top military commander of the elite Quds Force and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Thursday evening EST (early Friday morning Iraqi time).  Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in Baghdad outside the Baghdadi International Airport together with his Iraqi deputy as well as seven other military persons.

The burning wreckage of the vehicle where Gen. Qassem Soleimani was struck and killed by a U.S. drone at Baghdad International Airport on Jan 2, 2019 (Jan 3 Iraqi time). Credit: Twitter
The burning wreckage of the vehicle carrying Gen. Qassem Soleimani at a roadside outside Baghdad International Airport on Thur Jan 2, 2019 (Frid morning Jan 3 Iraqi time). Credit: AP

Following his death, Iran has vowed revenge and threatened to hit 35 U.S. targets in the region including Israel in what appears to be a growing proxy war between the United States and the Islamic state which is threatening to drag in other countries in the region including western allies with forces in the region.  In response, President Trump upped the ante in a tweet by threatening to hit 52 critical Iranian targets each representing former American hostages once held by Tehran should they launch the attacks.   

“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!’ tweeted President Trump on Saturday evening from his Mar-a-Lago resort club or, the ‘Winter White House’ where he and his family are spending the two week holiday.

President Trump speaks at a ‘Evangelicals For Trump’ Coalition launch event in Florida on Friday, January 3, 2020, the day after he ordered a strike that took out Iranian top military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Credit: Getty Images

“Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters,’ he said of Soleimani.

‘He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years,’ he continued.

Iran’s top military commander of the Quds Forces and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp. Gen. Qassem Soleimani killed by U.S. airstrike in Baghdad on Jan 2, 2019 (Jan 3 Iraqi time). Credit: AP
Gen. Qassem Soleimani (C) of elite Quds Forces and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp. aka the “shadow commander” was killed on Jan 2, 2019 (Jan 3 local time). Credit: Getty Images

The threat to hit American targets came after Iranians hoisted blood-red ‘flags of revenge’ over the minaret at the revered Jamkaran Mosque in Tehran.  What Trump did by taking out Gen. Soleimani was a game changer.  The man who was known as the “shadow commander” or “the ghost” was the second most powerful person in the Islamic state and the second to the Ayatollah.  He  answered only directly to him and nobody else.  

Taking him out meant that there were going to be consequence and huge implications particularly strategic implications which the United States has prepared for well in advance. While no country or world leader was willing to take this messenger of death out due to fear including two former U.S. Presidents (George W. Bush, Barack Obama), his death nonetheless is good news for United States, Israel, Iranians, Iraqis and throughout the Middle East and the world.  This is the man who was the architect of the destruction of Israel and the “Death To America” chants/or mantra.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani (R) with Iranian Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (C) and Ayatollah Khamenei (L) was the second most powerful person in Iran next to the Ayatollah. Credit: AP

The 52 Iranian critical targets that President Trump is making reference to are considered important to the Islamic nation, its economy, culture as well as its government. 

For 23 years, Soleimani was a very powerful and influential man who dominated the Middle East. He was both feared and hated throughout the region. Those who speak of him say that in order to understand the man, you have to think of him in this manner.  He was the equivalent of the combination of the US Joint Operations Commander with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA Director and the Secretary of State, all rolled up into one man.  That was the power of who Qassem Soleimani was. 

In addition to his huge influence and power, Soleimani was someone whose prowess and operational capacity together with his tactical brilliance created enormous difficulties for U.S. interests and operations in the region.  

According to the Department of Defence, he was the man who was responsible for spilling the blood of over 600 Americans, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iranians, Lebanese as well as Iraqis.  In reality, Qassem Soleimani was the single, most dangerous person who created the worst devastation in the entire region.  Taking him out was warranted and thus considered long overdue because of the many atrocities he committed.

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