Spontaneous celebrations broke out in Iraq’s Tahrir Square on news of the killings of key Iranian military figures by the U.S on Thursday.
Michael Doran, a foreign policy expert and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, tweeted out footage on Friday of Iraqis taking to the streets.
Iraqis are celebrating. You don’t need to know Arabic to understand what they’re saying: “Ding dong the witch is dead!” | pic.twitter.com/v0wPdNFb8P
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 3, 2020
Doran said in a tweet that revelers in Baghdad were “rejoicing at the death of their tormentor.”
Doran also tweeted out a photograph purporting to show Iraqis baking cakes in praise of President Donald Trump.
Happy Iraqis bake cakes and sweets to celebrate the bright morning after and to thank President Trump | pic.twitter.com/tofOSI3cyz
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 3, 2020
The United States killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the spearhead of Iran’s spreading military influence in the Middle East, in an air strike at Baghdad’s international airport. The Iraqi government is outraged over the killing and says it will lead to war.
The Pentagon said on Thursday the air strike that killed Soleimani was carried out at the express direction of Trump.
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the Department of the Defense said in a statement.
Washington is claiming the killing of Soleimani was to thwart an impending attack in the Middle East that threatened dozens, if not hundreds of American lives.
That’s according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He gave few other details to U.S. networks.
“I think you know this, the risk of doing nothing was enormous. Enormous in the short term, in terms of the imminent attack that Qassem Soleimani was planning,” Pompeo said during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”
Soleimani was killed in an air strike at Baghdad’s International Airport along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of an Iraqi paramilitary force.
The U.S. embassy is urging all Americans to leave the country. The Iraqi government is outraged and says the strike – inside the airport, inside the capital, and without their permission – is going to lead to war.
Soleimani was the head of the Quds Force, an elite unit responsible for the Iranian military’s foreign operations, and an architect of Iran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.
al-Muhandis oversaw the coalition of Iraqi militia units supported by Iran known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, which are technically part of the Iraqi government’s security apparatus.
It’s understood that rockets hit two vehicles carrying the leaders.
This is a dramatic escalation, and a divisive one on the streets of Iraq.
Iran’s influence in Iraq – especially in the security services – is part of the motive for the anti-government protests that have swept Iraq for months, in which hundreds have been killed.
But at the same time, it was the killing of members of those Iran-backed militia over the weekend by a seperate U.S. air strike that sparked the two-day siege of the American embassy by its supporters.
Protests organized by the militia – a siege that ended less than 24 hours before this latest incident.
The Pentagon said Soleimani’s killing was a “defensive action” to protect government employees and soldiers abroad, and to deter future acts by Iran.
Soleimani’s reach spread across the wars in Syria, Iraq, and he had strong ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
And the U.S. has blamed Iran for attacks on American forces in Iraq, as well as the high profile air strikes on Saudi oil facilities.
Soleimani led the Quds Force for over 20 years and survived multiple assassination attempts over that time from the West, the Israelis, and Saudis as well.
(Pluralist contributed to this report.)