Much of the U.S. is on pins and needles following a Trump-ordered airstrike that killed a top Iranian military leader, escalating already heightened tensions in the Middle East and sparking fears of an all out war.
Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard — a group designated a terrorist organization by the United States — was targeted in a drone strike shortly after he’d landed at the international airport in neighboring Iraq’s capital of Baghdad early Friday, multiple outlets reported.
At least six others were also killed in the airport strike, including deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces militias in Iraq.
President Donald Trump green-lit the early morning attack, a move both national and world leaders have decried as “short-sighted” and “hugely consequential.” Tweeting Friday from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump defended the act and said Soleimani “should have been taken out many years ago!”
….of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed [or] badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught!” he wrote, arguing the top general was “both hated and feared” throughout Iran.
Trump, 73, went to to suggest that Iranians “aren’t nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe.”
The Pentagon addressed the airstrike in a statement Friday, saying Gen. Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats [and] U.S. service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” The top military official is also accused of ordering the recent attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where an estimated 6,000 protesters stormed the compound amid fallout over separate U.S. airstrikes that killed Iraqi militia members.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already responded to the attack on Soleimani, warning that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S.
News of the airstrike triggered a torrent of reactions Friday, with many fearing the consequences of the deadly action. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Trump had “dragged the U.S. into the most dangerous situation in the region,” while Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) slammed the president for “knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war.”
Others took a more lighthearted approach, however, taking to social media to joke about the possibility of enduring World War III.
“Australia is still burning. And now world war 3 is trending,” artist BossLogic tweeted. “2020 is telling everyone to hold its beer.”
me during world war 3 when i get taken as prisoner and i have to entertain the enemy to stay alive pic.twitter.com/SG9R1wI8nL
— 🤠☔️ (@clownery_only) January 3, 2020
“We gotta send all the short duded who 5’11 and below into battle for World War III. They can stack up on each other like Voltron and save us,” someone else wrote.
Another user opined: “2020 is literally starting with world war III rumours and a new Justin Bieber album, and I can’t decide which is worse.”
— defund gold diggas. (@All_Cake88) January 3, 2020
Others also used the opportunity to highlight Trump’s hypocrisy, digging up past tweets in which the real estate mogul accused then-POTUS Barack Obama of picking a war with Iran in a ploy to get re-elected. In several tweets between 2011 and 2015, Trump claimed Obama was vying to start a war because of “his inability to negotiate.”
“Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected–be careful Republicans!,” he warned in a post dated Oct. 22, 2012.
Polls are starting to look really bad for Obama. Looks like he'll have to start a war or major conflict to win. Don't put it past him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2012
Trump doubled down on his claims in a 2011 video, saying: “Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate – he’s weak and ineffective.”
Watch more in the video below.
“Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He's weak and he's ineffective. So the only way he figures that he's going to get reelected and is sure as you're sitting there is to start a war with Iran." pic.twitter.com/R3kdzGP0Wr
— The Resistance 🇺🇸 (@NightlyPolitics) January 3, 2020