TEHRAN – Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Esmayeel Qaani as the new Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force whose late chief, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, was killed by US forces early on Friday.
In a decree on Friday, Ayatollah Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Qaani as the new Commander of IRGC’s Qods Force, noting that Qaani has been one of the prominent commanders during the eight years of Sacred Defense and has been accompanying General Soleimani in the past several years in the region.
“The plan of the Force will exactly be the same as the plan during martyr Soleimani’s tenure,” underlined the Supreme Leader.
Lieutenant General Soleimani was martyred in a targeted assassination attack by US aircraft at Baghdad International Airport early on Friday morning.
“General Qassem Soleimani has been martyred by the US drones after lifetime efforts,” the IRGC said in a statement early Friday morning.
The airstrike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or Hashad al-Shabi. The PMF media arm said the two were killed in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.
A PMF official said seven people were killed by missiles fired by the US drones at Baghdad International Airport. He said the dead included the PMF airport protocol officer, Mohammed Reda. The Pentagon confirmed the attack in a statement.
The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces soldiers. A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad. On Wednesday President Donald Trump ordered about 750 US soldiers deployed to the Middle East.
US officials earlier suggested they were to engage in further attacks in Iraq. The developments also represent a major downturn in Iraq-US relations that could further undermine US influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.
The attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.