By Tom Kool
Oil prices soared early on Friday morning after U.S. forces in Iraq assassinated Iran’s most powerful and visible military leader, Qassem Soleimani.
The United States killed the Iranian general in an airstrike early on Friday morning according to Pentagon reports. Influential Iraqi militia commander and advisor to Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed in the attack according to a militia spokesman.
According to Al-Jazeera, the general was killed on his way to the airport in Baghdad, in what appears to be a series of targeted airstrikes on a convoy of vehicles carrying ‘’high profile’’ guests which were being escorted from the airport by Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an Iran-backed group of militias.
Later this morning, The White House and the Pentagon confirmed the killing of the Iranian commander, stating the attack was carried out following a direct order from US President Donald Trump and was aimed at ‘’deterring future attacks’ on U.S. diplomats and service members throughout the region.
According to the Pentagon, the attack was a ‘defensive action’
U.S. President Trump has not yet reported to the high-profile assassination, but tweeted an image of the American flag with no commentary
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
The airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani and Abu-Mahdi al-Mohandis can be seen as a major blow to Iran and as a direct response to last week’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq by Iranian backed militias.
Iran’s Soleimani was not just the commander of its elite Quds forces, he was also the driving force behind covert operations throughout the entire Middle East, defending Iran’s interests in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon and was also said to have played a key role in the attacks on Saudi oil assets in September 2019.
The General was known to be one of the hardliners in Tehran and vowed to preserve the Iranian Republic in its current form. Feared by some, the general became some sort of an icon in Iranian popular culture, with his face being printed on banners and t-shirts. Also notable was his strong personal relationship with supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei from which he received Iran’s highest military decoration earlier this year.
Iranian leaders are expected to be gathering within the next couple of hours, and a firm response from Tehran can be expected within the next few days.
Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei has threatened “severe retaliation” against the “criminals” who killed Qasem Soleimani and has declared three days of national mourning following the death of the general.
Oil prices jumped more than 3% following the event, and can be expected to rise further towards the end of the week as geopolitical risk throughout the entire region just exploded.
By Tom Kool of Oilprice.com