Former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan retired Gen. David Petraeus said the killing of Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani “more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden” and could help “reestablish deterrence” in Iran.
The former CIA director told Foreign Policy in an interview on Friday, “It is impossible to overstate the importance of this particular action.”
He added: “Soleimani was the architect and operational commander of the Iranian effort to solidify control of the so-called Shia crescent, stretching from Iran to Iraq through Syria into southern Lebanon.”
President Donald Trump authorized the airstrike against the Iranian general on Thursday, and just a few hours later, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had replaced Soleimani with his deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani, who served under Soleimani since 1997.
“[Soleimani] is responsible for providing explosives, projectiles, and arms and other munitions that killed well over 600 American soldiers and many more of our coalition and Iraqi partners just in Iraq, as well as in many other countries such as Syria,” Petraeus said. “So his death is of enormous significance.”
The Pentagon said in a statement that Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s “elite” Quds Force, was actively planning an attack on the United States.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said. “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
The airstrike also killed deputy commander of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Iraqi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and PMF official Mohammed Reda.
Gen. Petraeus said the question now is how Iran will respond.
“The question of course is how does Iran respond in terms of direct action by its military and Revolutionary Guard Corps forces?” he asked. “And how does it direct its proxies—the Iranian-supported Shia militia in Iraq and Syria and southern Lebanon, and throughout the world?”
On Friday after the attack, Khamenei called for “severe revenge.”
“Martyr Soleimani is an Intl figure of Resistance & all such people will seek revenge,” Khamenei said.
“His efforts & path won’t be stopped by his martyrdom, by God’s Power, rather a #SevereRevenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs’ blood last night.”
Iran also backed out of its commitments to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that established uranium enrichment limits.
“Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment with no limitations and based on its technical needs,” the Iranian statement declared.