Iranian Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramadan Sharif burst into tears on live television upon acknowledging the death of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian terror chief by a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad airport on Friday.
“The joy of the Americans and the Zionists will now turn to their condolences,” Sharif said of the strike, according to Lebanese media, before adding that Soleimani was one of the most “experienced, brave, revolutionary and loyal leaders of the state who achieved during his blessed life for 41 years.”
The video, broadcast on Iranian state television, was verified by Al-Arabiya, a Saudi news network.
— العربية (@AlArabiya) January 3, 2020
The reporter and spokesman then embraced one another with a hug and kiss on the cheek.
The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military eliminated Gen. Qassem Soleimani – the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, a unite that organizes terrorist attacks in the region – at the direction of President Donald Trump.
The airstrike occurred at Baghdad’s international airport Friday, Iranian state television and three Iraqi officials said.
The Defense Department said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
A statement released late Thursday by the Pentagon said the strike on Soleimani “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, Iraqi officials said. The PMF media arm said the two were killed in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.
The PMF is a coalition of pro-Iran, mostly Shiite militias and terror organizations that united to fight the Sunni Islamic State terrorist group. Iraq legalized them as a formal wing of the Iraqi military.
Speaking to CNN Friday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike came in response to intelligence that Soleimani was planning to imminently attack U.S. citizens.
“He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action, as he described it — that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk,” Pompeo stated. “We know it was imminent. This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process.”
Shortly after Pompeo’s remarks, President Trump broke his silence on Soleimani’s killing, saying the Iranian general was “directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people” and that he should have been eliminated years prior.
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more … but got caught!” the president posted on Twitter. “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself.”
“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!” he concluded.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.