Approximately 3,000 American troops will be deployed to the Middle East following the storming of U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, according to U.S. officials.
Three U.S. defense officials and one U.S. military official confirmed the development on Friday, NBC News reported.
The deployments follow the storming of the U.S. Embassy by Iraqi militia members on Tuesday and the death of 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 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.
Defense officials told NBC News the deployments were not a reaction to the strike.
There are already approximately 650 soldiers deployed in the region, according to NBC News.
The newly deployed troops are expected to stay for an estimated 60 days, officials told NBC News.
Journalists stressed the momentousness of killing Soleimani, with some saying his death was “bigger than taking out Bin Laden.”
Whoever did this just started a war.
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) January 3, 2020
“Whoever did this just started a war,” tweeted Rania Khalek, a progressive journalist who writes often on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
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.
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 separate 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.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)