The Pentagon confirmed on the night of January 2 that Iran’s top commander General Qasem Soleimani has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.  

International media reports say Soleimani, who led a special forces unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, was a key figure of Iranian and Middle East politics and his death exacerbated already-high tensions between Iran and the United States, and triggered concerns of retaliation from Iranian forces.

Deutsche Welle (DW) says the US Department of State has urged Americans in Iraq to leave “immediately” after Tehran vowed to “retaliate” over a US airstrike in Baghdad that targeted the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani.

According to CNN, the Pentagon blamed Soleimani and his Quds Force for attacks on coalition bases in Iraq in recent months, including the December 27 strike that culminated in the deaths of an American contractor and Iraqi personnel.  He was also blamed for the December 31 US embassy attack in Baghdad, and in addition to the hundreds killed in his time as a commander, thousands more were wounded, the Pentagon said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei commented on the assassination of the commander of the IRGC's Quds Forces Major-General Qasem Soleimani and said harsh and severe revenge is awaiting the criminals, according to IRNA.

In a message issued on January 3, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei stressed that severe revenge is waiting for those who are behind this criminal act.

Iranian Major-General Qasem Soleimani, considered one of Iran's most prolific battlefield commanders, was killed in a calculated US airstrike near Baghdad's international airport.

He led the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, which served as the Islamic Republic's special foreign operations unit. 

Soleimani is considered the central figure in securing Iran's foothold across the region.  He managed to consolidate Iranian influence in Iraq by providing material and financial support to Shiite militias, which eventually unified as the Baghdad-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Units.

In Syria, his forces reportedly supported government forces in successfully contesting rebel territory and uprooting Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

US officials have described him as a pivotal leader of Iranian ambitions in the region.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani as the successor of General Qasem Soleimani as the Commander of the IRGC Quds Forces.