WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a video on Twitter Thursday where he showed Iraqis “dancing in the street” after the United States killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
“Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more,” Pompeo wrote, alongside footage of scores of people running along a road and waving what appeared to be Iraqi flags and other banners.
President Donald Trump ordered the killing of the Iran Revolutionary Guards commander, who died Friday “in a decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad,” the Pentagon said.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.
“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.”
Pompeo did not provide a source for the video or offer any details about where the images were filmed.
The strike at Baghdad’s international airport also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force.
Hours after news of the attack, The US embassy in Baghdad urged American citizens in Iraq on Friday to "depart immediately", for fear of fallout from a US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.
"US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land," the embassy said in a statement.
The US strike hit outside Baghdad airport early Friday but security sources told AFP it was still open to flights.
A pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy following deadly American airstrikes on a hard-line Hashed faction.
The US had called the strikes in response to a rocket attack days earlier that killed an American contractor working in Iraq.
The Pentagon said Soleimani had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past months, including on December 27, the day the contractor was killed.
“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” it said.
Republican lawmakers quickly spoke out Thursday in strong support of Trump's attack that killed Soleimani.
“In a display of resolve and strength, we struck the leader of those attacking our sovereign US territories,” top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.
The sentiment was swiftly echoed by his fellow Republicans.
“Wow - the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a close confidant of Trump, wrote on Twitter.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also praised the attack.
“Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands,” Haley said on Twitter. “his demise should be applauded by all who seek peace and justice. “proud of president trump for doing the strong and right thing.”
The high praise from the right stood in stark contrast to reaction from Democrats, who severely criticized Trump's latest move in a sign of Washington's polarization ahead of this year's presidential elections.
“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” said former vice president Joe Biden, who leads the pack of Democratic contenders, in a statement.
“Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East,” Biden said.
US entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wrote on Twitter that “war with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people.
“We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.”
Democratic Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said “Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”
It was already a topic trending in US-based think tank and diplomatic circles late Thursday.
“Make no mistake: any war with Iran will not look like the 1990 Gulf war or the 2003 Iraq war,” Richard Haass, president of the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter.
“The region (and possibly the world) will be the battlefield,” he wrote.
In response to the attack, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the “international face of resistance.” Khamenei declared three days of public mourning for the general’s death.
Iran also summoned the Swiss charges d'affaires, who represents US interests in Tehran, to protest the killing.
Iranian state television called Trump’s order to kill Soleimani “the biggest miscalculation by the US” since World War II. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay," it said.
Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who control Yemen's capital Sanaa, also called for "swift reprisals" for the killing of Soleimani.
"We condemn this killing and direct and swift reprisals are the answer," senior Houthi official Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi tweeted.
Meanwhile, France’s embassy in Tehran on Friday urged its citizens in Iran to stay away from public gatherings after the killing of Soleimani.
“Three days of mourning have been declared after the death of General Soleimani. In this context, we recommend French citizens to stay away from any gatherings and to behave with prudence and discretion and abstain from taking pictures in public spaces,” it said in a statement on Twitter.