The Trump administration viewed Soleimani as a ruthless killer, and the President told reporters Friday that the general should have been taken out by previous presidents.
The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said, calling the strike “decisive defensive” action aimed at deterring future Iranian attacks.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat and member of the Appropriations Committee, said the strike will increase threats to US interests from across Middle East.
“Today the administration announced we’re sending 3,000 more troops to the region,” he said. “So clearly the administration recognizes that this action has actually dramatically increased the risks in the Middle East, increased the risks of an attack from Iran and it should be no surprise to anybody who has followed these issues that Iran does mean what it says when it says this is essentially tantamount to an act of war.”
Iran says it will fight back
In a letter to the United Nations, Iran described the attack as state terrorism and an unlawful criminal act.
It was “tantamount to opening a war,” Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
“The response for a military action is a military action. By whom? When? Where? That is for the future to witness,” he said.
“The US has started the economic war in — in May 2018. Last night, they started a military war. By assassinating, by an act of terror, against one of our top generals,” he told CNN.
Iran and its allies condemned the strike as an “assassination,” while European officials and the UN called for de-escalation.
At least six people were killed in the strike, an Iraqi security source told CNN on condition of anonymity.
Funeral processions will be held for Soleimani in both Iran and Iraq, Iranian state media reported. Iran will hold three days of national mourning, with people also gathering in Baghdad on Saturday to pay tribute to all the officials killed.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has vowed “harsh revenge,” according to a statement on his official website.
“His pure blood was shed in the hands of the most depraved of human beings,” Khamenei said.
Maj. Gen. Ismail Qaani, who served for years alongside Soleimani, has been appointed as his replacement.
CNN’s Ryane Browne, Zachary Cohen, Hamdi Alkhshali, Kareem Khadder and Angela Dewan contributed to this report