Following an attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad by an Iranian-backed militia group on New Year’s Eve, President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike on Baghdad’s international airport that targeted and killed Qassim Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Soleimani was joined in death with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which is a conglomeration of militias backed by Iran.
The US response, which has been confirmed by the Pentagon along with their announcement to deploy an additional 750 Army troops to the region, signals a more aggressive approach to countering terrorist attacks which lies in stark contrast to the aftermath of attacks on US government facilities in Benghazi in 2012 that killed US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
The previous administration placed the blame largely on a US-based content creator who they claimed provoked the attack with a controversial satire video. So far, Trump’s administration has focused more on the external threats on the ground in the region, systematically ordering targeted strikes against those with any possible ties to the recent New Year’s Eve attack.
Trump’s comparatively hardline reaction has prompted concerns that it could spark a more serious conflict between the US and Iran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei already strongly condemned previous US attacks on Iranian-allied militias in Iraq, but has yet to respond to the killing of his top military commander.
It is currently unknown what Iran’s official response will be, but US Defense Secretary Mike Esper has claimed “there are some indications out there that they may be planning additional attacks”, adding that the “game has changed” and that the US may take preemptive action to secure the lives of its personnel in the surrounding area.
For his part, President Trump simply posted a large image of the American flag on social media. The post has already received hundreds of thousands of likes.
Offline, Trump has also enjoyed large support for his response to the attack on US facilities.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R) joined a choir of voices praising the president’s actions, stating “the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up dramatically”, adding that it was a “major blow to [the] Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands.”
Detractors include presidential candidate Andrew Yang (D) who said that war with Iran “is not the will of the American people”, adding that “we should be acting to deescalate tensions”.
Social media has also quickly reacted to the most recent news of tension in the Middle East, with hashtags like “World War 3”, “WWIII”, “Soleimani”, “Iraq”, and “Iran” all trending on Twitter.