U.S. forces carried out an airstrike that reportedly killed one Iran's most powerful figures, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.
The air raids occurred near Baghdad's international airport, just days after Iranian-backed militias besieged the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi capital. Among those killed in the strike was Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who is considered the second-most powerful figure in Iran behind Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," the Pentagon said in a statement published by The New York Times. "General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more."
The Defense Department also accused Soleimani of planning a number of attacks on U.S. facilities, including the U.S. embassy in Baghdad this week as well as the Dec. 27 rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and injured four U.S. troops. The American military retaliated Sunday by launching five airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, killing 24 people and injuring dozens.
"[Thursday's] strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans," the DoD said in the statement. "The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."
The U.S. reportedly carried out the airstrike at the direction of Donald Trump, who is currently vacationing in Palm Beach. Shortly after the attack, POTUS tweeted the American flag without any comment.
Iraqi officials say a total of seven people were killed in the airstrike, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis—the deputy commander of the Iran-backed umbrella paramilitary group Popular Mobilization Forces.
News of the attack arrives just hours after Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the U.S. would "take preemptive action to defend our personnel and our interests and our partners in the region."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the airstrike, calling it an "act of international terrorism."
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei strongly condemned the attack and called for three days of mourning.
Shortly after the Pentagon's confirmation, oil prices increased by more than 4 percent. Per CNBC: "Brent crude was up 2.88% to $68.14 per barrel, while U.S. crude rose 2.70% to $62.82 per barrel." The surge was due to concerns about growing tensions in the Middle East and their effect on oil supply.
On Friday night, "WWIII" was trending on Twitter, with many convinced that retaliation was imminent. You can read some of the reactions to the attack below.
Some people online pointed out the similarities between the current situation and Clinton's presidency as he launched an airstrike in Iraq while he was nearing impeachment.