BAGHDAD (AP/CBS) – Sen. Cory Gardner is backing the Trump Administration’s decision to launch an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. On Thursday night, the Pentagon confirmed the U.S. military launched the airstrike that killed Gen. Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport.
“I commend the Administration for taking this decisive action today in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists,” Sen. Gardner said in a statement Thursday night. “The world should not mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose name is synonymous with murder in the Middle East and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members.”
As the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Gen. Soleimani acted as the architect of Iran’s regional security apparatus. In a statement, the Pentagon said Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
The Defense Department blamed Soleimani for deaths of hundreds of Americans and said he was behind recent attacks on coalition bases in Iraq, including one on December 27 that .
The attack is expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation against Israel and American interests.
“I now urge the Administration to be prepared for possible retaliation, including against U.S. troops stationed in the region, and to consult closely with Congress on any next steps should the situation escalate,” Sen. Gardner said in a statement. “I hope Iran will realize its future depends on stopping its support of terrorism.”
After news of the attack broke late Thursday, Mr. Trump tweeted a photo of an American flag.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
Abu Mahdi Muhandis, the head of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed, an Iraqi official confirmed to CBS News. At least five other people were killed when at least three rockets hit the Baghdad International Airport on Friday.
Reaction from congressional lawmakers was split along party lines. Democratic Senator Tom Udall, from New Mexico, called it a “reckless escalation of hostilities” that is bringing the nation “to the brink of an illegal war with Iran.”
The missile attack comes hours after Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. military will be ready if Iran and its allies plan new attacks, like the one this week at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
More than 700 Army paratroopers are headed to Kuwait, as many as 5,000 more paratroopers and Marines are expected to be sent to the Persian Gulf in the coming days.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)