Iran has promised to retaliate after a US airstrike killed general Qassem Soleimani and at least five other people in Iraq early on Friday morning.
The US bombed Soleimani shortly after he arrived at Iraq’s Baghdad airport. The strike also killed Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and at least four other people who were with them.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US.
The murder of Soleimani is a major escalation of Trump’s proxy war against Iran in the Middle East. As head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corp—a key branch of the state—Soleimani was sometimes described as even more important than the Iranian president.
Without providing evidence the US’s defence department said Soleimani was “Developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
It added, “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
Yet the biggest threat of violence in the Middle East comes from the US, which has ramped up tensions with Iran since Trump became president in 2016.
Trump wants to use violence and threats of war to push back Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East, which is a threat to the US’s control of the region.
After scrapping an agreement between the US and Iran in 2018, Trump imposed new economic sanctions that have pushed millions of ordinary Iranians into poverty.
And last year he claimed to have been minutes away from launching airstrikes on Iran.
Now Trump is targeting Iraq, where Iran has become particularly influential.
Soleimani was in Iraq to visit al-Muhandis, a commander in the Iranian-backed militia the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU). Their deaths come after the US killed some 25 PMU fighters in yet more airstrikes on Iraq on Sunday.
Outraged Iraqi militia fighters and protesters stormed the US embassy in Baghdad on Monday.
The US and its supporters gloated over the killing of Soleimani.
At around the same time as the assassination took place, Trump tweeted an image of an American flag without explanation. His secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed Iraqi people were “dancing in the street for freedom” after the killing.
Yet the attack could spark a war that could spread across the whole of the Middle East, destroying the lives of billions of people. Iranian-backed forces could launch retaliation attacks not just in Iraq but other countries too.
Pompeo said he had discussed the decision to "to eliminate Qassem Soleimani" with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab and he was "thankful that our allies recognise the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranians". Britain is part of the US-led maritime military taskforce in the Gulf, which menaces Iran. And there are 400 British troops in Iraq.
Everyone who wants to stop that has to oppose Trump and his allies in Britain as they drive to war.