Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani was killed Friday following a US airstrike.
Here’s a recap of what we know:
- US drone strike kills top commander: President Trump ordered an air strike on Baghdad airport that killed Qasem Soleimani, who as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force became the architect of Tehran’s proxy conflicts in the Middle East. During a news conference from Mar-a-Lago Friday, Trump claimed Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.
- Attack was not about a “regime change”: Trump said the US is not seeking regime change in Iran following an attack that killed a top Iranian general. “We do not seek regime change,” he said. Trump added: “The Iranian regime’s aggression in the region — including its use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors — must end and it must end now.”
- No Congressional sign off sought: Prior to the strike, White House administration lawyers in consultation with national security officials put together a “strong rationale” specifically for the strike against the Iranian general that Trump, as commander in chief, had the authority to not ask for congressional authorization over a matter of self defense, the administration official said. That legal rationale formed the basis for not going to Congress for authorization beforehand. “We did not feel the need to ask for authorization over basic rights of self defense,” the official said.
- A huge escalation: Trump’s move dramatically ramps up regional tensions that have pitted Tehran against Washington and its allies in the Middle East. The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies in several attacks in recent months.
- Iran vows “harsh revenge”: Three days of national mourning were declared in Iran, where Soleimani was revered as a national hero, and thousands of demonstrators were seen marching in Tehran. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “harsh revenge,” according to a statement published to his official website.
- What Trump said: The US President tweeted combative remarks on Friday morning, writing: “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”
- US tells citizens to get out of Iraq: The State Department urged US citizens Friday to leave Iraq immediately. It also warned that citizens “should not approach” its embassy in Baghdad and that all consular operations are suspended.
- Democrats warn of consequences: The strike has divided US lawmakers, with several Democratic presidential candidates raising concerns about what comes next. Joe Biden said Trump “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” and Bernie Sanders said the move “puts us on the path” to war with Iran.
- World governments react: Russia has cautioned that the attack could have “grave consequences,” while China has urged the US to show “restraint.” In Europe, the UK called for “all parties to de-escalate.” The French government told its citizens in Iran to stay away from public gatherings.
- Oil prices soar: Oil prices moved higher after the strike amid speculation that reprisals could target oil installations. Futures for Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped 4.3% to $69.08 per barrel on Friday. US oil futures gained 4.1%, reaching $63.69 per barrel. Both are on track for their biggest daily gains in about a month.