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Iran Vows Revenge For U.S. Killing Of Top Commander Qassem Soleimani

Iran's Defense Minister, Amir Hatami, was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying the Islamic republic would take a "crushing revenge" for Soleimani's assassination "from all those involved and responsible."

Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called it "an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people," and warned it risked sparking a "devastating war."

Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds military Force, was killed in an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq on Friday.

The U.S. Defense Department said that the "decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel" was ordered by President Trump.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Soleimani was killed "in response to imminent threats to American lives."

The strike drew a vow of "crushing revenge" from Iran. The State Department told Americans in Iraq to leave the country immediately, and American troops in the region are on high alert.

Lawmakers are divided over the strike, with Republicans applauding Trump's action and Democrats warning about the possible repercussions.

At a briefing at the State Department, three senior officials stressed that the killing of Soleimani was carried out to head off an attack on Americans -- and that it was a justifiable action taken in self-defense.

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Head Of Iran's Elite Military Force Killed In Baghdad Air Strike

Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds military Force, has been killed in an airstrike in Baghdad.

The officials could not say how far along the plot was or whether Soleimani's death means the threat is over, but they did say the threat was to Americans in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the region. They added that the attack targeted "American diplomats, American military personnel and facilities that house Americans."

"The threat picture that the intelligence presented made it very clear that in the absence of decisive action, hundreds of Americans would be killed," one official said.

At a press conference at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump said what the U.S. did yesterday "should have been done long ago."

Trump makes a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida, on January 3, 2020. Image: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty

"We took action last night to stop a war," he said. "We did not take action to start a war."

Trump also appeared to address concerns that the death of Soleimani will trigger retaliatory attacks from Iran.

"The United States has the best military by far anywhere in the world, we have the best intelligence in the world," he said.

"If any Americans anywhere are threatened -- we have all of those targets already fully identified -- and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary, and that in particular refers to Iran."