The Department of Defense said that the general "approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week"
Donald Trump; Qasem Soleimani
Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images; IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER'S OFFICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Donald Trump ordered an airstrike in Iraq Thursday, killing Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, a specialized unit in the Revolutionary Guards.

“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” said the Department of Defense in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the statement continued, adding that Soleimani and “his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

Soleimani was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport as he was leaving by car, according to The New York Times. He had reportedly flown in from Syria.

Soleimani “had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months — including the attack on December 27th — culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel,” the DOD’s statement Thursday said, referencing the killing of a U.S. civilian contract worker in a rocket attack last Friday that also injured several service workers.

“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” the DOD’s statement said, referring to the two days of protests outside of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, that had American diplomats trapped inside overnight, according to a Wednesday report from The New York Times.

Qasem Soleimani
Qassem Soleimani

The outlet reported that the protesters, who entered the Embassy compound and set fire to some of the buildings, eventually dispersed on Wednesday “after leaders of the Iranian-backed militias who had organized the demonstration called on the crowd to leave.”

The DOD said that Thursday’s strike by the U.S. “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

“The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world,” the statement concluded.