A former U.S. intelligence official described Soleimani as “most experienced guerrilla fighter operating globally,” running operations with Iranian forces and proxy militias in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The official described his death as “devastating,” and said the “very disruptive” assassination would likely cause a power struggle in Iran.
In April 2019, the U.S. designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the Quds Force, a “foreign terrorist organization.” In making the announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out Soleimani.
“With this designation, we are sending a clear signal, a clear message to Iran’s leaders, including Qassem Soleimani and his band of thugs, that the United States is bringing all pressure to bear to stop the regime’s outlaw behavior,” Pompeo said at the time.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama who was instrumental in the 2014 Iran nuclear deal, said there’s “no question that Soleimani has a lot of blood on his hands.”
“But this is a really frightening moment,” he added. “Iran will respond and likely in various places. Thinking of all US personnel in the region right now.”
More than 700 Army paratroopers are headed to Kuwait, and as many as 5,000 more paratroopers and U.S. Marines were expected to be sent to the Persian Gulf in the coming days.
While speaking to reporters off camera earlier Thursday, Esper said there were indications militias loyal to Iran were planning further attacks against Americans.
“Do I think they may do something? Yes, and they will likely regret it,” he said.