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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 96)

Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General

Westlake Legal Group 04iran-suleimani5-facebookJumbo Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Rouhani, Hassan Quds Force Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Baghdad (Iraq)

In cities across Iran, tens of thousands packed the streets to mourn Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Black-clad women and men beat their chests and clutched photos of him. A black flag went up on the golden dome of Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of the holiest sites of Shiite Islam.

Just a few weeks earlier, the streets were filled with protesters angry with their leaders over the flailing economy and the country’s international isolation.

But at least for now, Iran is united — in anger at the United States.

For years, it has been a divided nation led by aged revolutionaries determined to impose their will on a predominantly young population with no memory of the Shah, who was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and with a thirst to live in a more normal nation integrated into the world.

Suddenly, with one targeted assassination, the nation rallied behind its leaders.

Young and old. Rich and poor. Hard-liner and reformer, General Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military leader, was almost universally admired and had near cult figure status. After being killed in Baghdad on Friday in a drone strike ordered by President Trump, his image is now plastered across Tehran, shrouded in black drapes.

“Without doubt, the people of Iran will take revenge for this horrific criminal act,” tweeted the president, Hassan Rouhani, a leader who once advocated diplomacy and integration with the West.

In Iraq on Saturday, tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through the capital, Baghdad, vowing to exact revenge on the United States at a funeral procession for two revered Iraqi military figures who were also killed in the attack on General Suleimani.

And back in Iran, politicians and ordinary people of all stripes voiced support for the vow by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that “severe revenge awaits those criminals” who killed the general.

The assassination appears to have solidified the hard-liners’ grip on power, neutralizing at least for the moment those who had called for talks with the West, experts inside and outside of Iran said.

Iran’s relative moderates like Mr. Rouhani have been on the defensive since Mr. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed an array of sanctions, contributing to Iran’s sharp economic decline.

That reversal bolstered hard-line critics who said it discredited those who had accepted American assurances. Moderates had nurtured fading hopes of renewed talks with Washington — possibly between the two presidents.

Any talk of outreach or liberalization seems more dangerous than it has in years and is likely to fade from public debate for the time being. The prospect of negotiations with the United States, tweeted Sara Masoumi, a prominent reformist journalist, is now “below zero.”

“At least in the short term, this will create a rally to the flag; Suleimani was personally popular,” said Vali R. Nasr, a Middle East scholar and former dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He predicted “an outpouring of emotion,” both organic and whipped up by the government.

Iran is bestowing honors on Mr. Suleimani as if he were a combination of statesman and saint. His body will circulate around shrines in all the holy cities of Shiite Islam from Samarra, Kadhimiya, Karbala and Najaf in Iraq to Mashhad and Qom in Iran.

As his body makes its way to four Iranian cities over the next few days, large crowds are expected to attend and display their solidarity and defiance. This show of unity, however, could be short-lived.

The deep grievances that ignited protests against the government in November still remain in place: economic hardship, international isolation and social oppression. Some Iranian opposition supporters have praised the assassination and are in favor of Washington increasing its maximum pressure policy on Iran’s rulers.

Just last month, mass anti-government protests shook Iran, showing deep discontent — which only grew with a brutal crackdown that killed as many as 1,000 people. Fury at the United States is now expected to deflect attention from the country’s economic suffering and the recent protests.

And the assassination may well provide Iran’s leaders with an excuse to intensify its repression of dissenters and critics.

General Suleimani’s killing “was the worst thing that could happen to civic movements in Iran and Iraq,” said Amir Rashidi, an Iranian cybersecurity expert based in New York.

“It means more pressure on people who are already being squeezed politically and economically.”

In just a few days, the conflict between the United States and Iran has escalated dramatically. A rocket attack on a military base in Iraq killed an American on Friday; the United States blamed it on an Iran-backed militia and carried out airstrikes Sunday that killed some two dozen militia fighters. On Tuesday, militias swarmed the American embassy compound in Baghdad, breached the outer wall and set fire to some structures.

General Suleimani led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which conducts Iran’s foreign military operations. He commanded Iranian forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He also headed Iran’s role in arming, training and directing anti-ISIS Shiite militias; the American attack that killed him also killed the powerful leader of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

In addition, the general directed Iran’s involvement with forces like the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and others that are in conflict with the United States and its regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The United States had labeled him a terrorist since 2007 and imposed economic sanctions on him.

But in Iran, the government built up his public image as the person keeping the country safe. He went from a commander in the shadows to a household name, regularly seen in news videos directing troops in battle, meeting with allied leaders and reciting poetry about martyrdom.

“Qassim Suleimani has been seen as the public face of Iran’s regional policy,” said Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow and leader of the Iran Forum at Chatham House, an international affairs institute based in London. “Since the fight against ISIS, you’ve seen this surge of support for him.”

Iranians who are usually outspoken in support of human rights have turned to national solidarity and sorrow at his death.

“How soon we forget how close ISIS was to us and who defeated this monster,” the actress Bahareh Rahnama posted on her Instagram account. One of Iran’s biggest celebrities, she is well known for her support of women’s rights.

General Suleimani was broadly thought of as a conservative, but he took care not to align himself with any political faction in Iran or take sides in domestic disputes, allowing him to be seen as above politics.

“He’s someone who had a depth and breadth of relationships within the Iranian system that allowed him to work with all key players,” Ms. Tabatabai said. She cited his close working relationship with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is seen as a moderate.

“Every major political actor within Iran, from reformist to hard-liner, is saying this is a great loss,” she said.

Iran announced a three-day funeral procession for General Suleimani which began on Saturday in Baghdad and then moves to other cities in Iraq. The procession will continue in Mashhad, Iran on Sunday and Tehran on Monday, where Ayatollah Khamenei will pray over the general’s body at Tehran University.

Then on Tuesday it will go to his hometown, Kerman, for burial. Iranian media reported that he left a will asking for a simple burial there.

An enormous turnout is expected, and leaders of militant groups from across the region are expected to attend the services, several people with knowledge of the planning said.

“Many Iranians, whether they like the regime or not, did consider Suleimani as a sort of national symbol,” said Raz Zimmt, an Iran specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, and they see his assassination “as something that hurts national pride. ”Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, a prominent Iranian author who has spoken out for artistic freedom, wrote that “Iran once again lost one of its most honorable children.”

Since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran has revived its nuclear program in stages, amid escalating conflicts with the United States. The European signers of the agreement promised to find a way to offset the effects of the sanctions, but so far have failed. Hints at renewed negotiations with Washington have gone nowhere.

“The moderates were already on life support” before the killing of General Suleimani, Mr. Nasr said, and Iran will hold legislative elections next month. “I would guess the hard-liners are going to do very well. This kind of pressure on Iran, just like in any country, plays into the hands of the security forces.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General

Westlake Legal Group 04iran-suleimani5-facebookJumbo Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Rouhani, Hassan Quds Force Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Embargoes and Sanctions Baghdad (Iraq)

In cities across Iran, tens of thousands packed the streets to mourn Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. Black-clad women and men beat their chests and clutched photos of him. A black flag went up on the golden dome of Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of the holiest sites of Shiite Islam.

Just a few weeks earlier, the streets were filled with protesters angry with their leaders over the flailing economy and the country’s international isolation.

But at least for now, Iran is united — in anger at the United States.

For years, it has been a divided nation led by aged revolutionaries determined to impose their will on a predominantly young population with no memory of the Shah, who was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and with a thirst to live in a more normal nation integrated into the world.

Suddenly, with one targeted assassination, the nation rallied behind its leaders.

Young and old. Rich and poor. Hard-liner and reformer, General Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military leader, was almost universally admired and had near cult figure status. After being killed in Baghdad on Friday in a drone strike ordered by President Trump, his image is now plastered across Tehran, shrouded in black drapes.

“Without doubt, the people of Iran will take revenge for this horrific criminal act,” tweeted the president, Hassan Rouhani, a leader who once advocated diplomacy and integration with the West.

In Iraq on Saturday, tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through the capital, Baghdad, vowing to exact revenge on the United States at a funeral procession for two revered Iraqi military figures who were also killed in the attack on General Suleimani.

And back in Iran, politicians and ordinary people of all stripes voiced support for the vow by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that “severe revenge awaits those criminals” who killed the general.

The assassination appears to have solidified the hard-liners’ grip on power, neutralizing at least for the moment those who had called for talks with the West, experts inside and outside of Iran said.

Iran’s relative moderates like Mr. Rouhani have been on the defensive since Mr. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed an array of sanctions, contributing to Iran’s sharp economic decline.

That reversal bolstered hard-line critics who said it discredited those who had accepted American assurances. Moderates had nurtured fading hopes of renewed talks with Washington — possibly between the two presidents.

Any talk of outreach or liberalization seems more dangerous than it has in years and is likely to fade from public debate for the time being. The prospect of negotiations with the United States, tweeted Sara Masoumi, a prominent reformist journalist, is now “below zero.”

“At least in the short term, this will create a rally to the flag; Suleimani was personally popular,” said Vali R. Nasr, a Middle East scholar and former dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He predicted “an outpouring of emotion,” both organic and whipped up by the government.

Iran is bestowing honors on Mr. Suleimani as if he were a combination of statesman and saint. His body will circulate around shrines in all the holy cities of Shiite Islam from Samarra, Kadhimiya, Karbala and Najaf in Iraq to Mashhad and Qom in Iran.

As his body makes its way to four Iranian cities over the next few days, large crowds are expected to attend and display their solidarity and defiance. This show of unity, however, could be short-lived.

The deep grievances that ignited protests against the government in November still remain in place: economic hardship, international isolation and social oppression. Some Iranian opposition supporters have praised the assassination and are in favor of Washington increasing its maximum pressure policy on Iran’s rulers.

Just last month, mass anti-government protests shook Iran, showing deep discontent — which only grew with a brutal crackdown that killed as many as 1,000 people. Fury at the United States is now expected to deflect attention from the country’s economic suffering and the recent protests.

And the assassination may well provide Iran’s leaders with an excuse to intensify its repression of dissenters and critics.

General Suleimani’s killing “was the worst thing that could happen to civic movements in Iran and Iraq,” said Amir Rashidi, an Iranian cybersecurity expert based in New York.

“It means more pressure on people who are already being squeezed politically and economically.”

In just a few days, the conflict between the United States and Iran has escalated dramatically. A rocket attack on a military base in Iraq killed an American on Friday; the United States blamed it on an Iran-backed militia and carried out airstrikes Sunday that killed some two dozen militia fighters. On Tuesday, militias swarmed the American embassy compound in Baghdad, breached the outer wall and set fire to some structures.

General Suleimani led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which conducts Iran’s foreign military operations. He commanded Iranian forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He also headed Iran’s role in arming, training and directing anti-ISIS Shiite militias; the American attack that killed him also killed the powerful leader of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

In addition, the general directed Iran’s involvement with forces like the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and others that are in conflict with the United States and its regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The United States had labeled him a terrorist since 2007 and imposed economic sanctions on him.

But in Iran, the government built up his public image as the person keeping the country safe. He went from a commander in the shadows to a household name, regularly seen in news videos directing troops in battle, meeting with allied leaders and reciting poetry about martyrdom.

“Qassim Suleimani has been seen as the public face of Iran’s regional policy,” said Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow and leader of the Iran Forum at Chatham House, an international affairs institute based in London. “Since the fight against ISIS, you’ve seen this surge of support for him.”

Iranians who are usually outspoken in support of human rights have turned to national solidarity and sorrow at his death.

“How soon we forget how close ISIS was to us and who defeated this monster,” the actress Bahareh Rahnama posted on her Instagram account. One of Iran’s biggest celebrities, she is well known for her support of women’s rights.

General Suleimani was broadly thought of as a conservative, but he took care not to align himself with any political faction in Iran or take sides in domestic disputes, allowing him to be seen as above politics.

“He’s someone who had a depth and breadth of relationships within the Iranian system that allowed him to work with all key players,” Ms. Tabatabai said. She cited his close working relationship with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is seen as a moderate.

“Every major political actor within Iran, from reformist to hard-liner, is saying this is a great loss,” she said.

Iran announced a three-day funeral procession for General Suleimani which began on Saturday in Baghdad and then moves to other cities in Iraq. The procession will continue in Mashhad, Iran on Sunday and Tehran on Monday, where Ayatollah Khamenei will pray over the general’s body at Tehran University. Then it will go to his hometown, Kerman, for burial on Tuesday.

An enormous turnout is expected, and leaders of militant groups from across the region are expected to attend the services, several people with knowledge of the planning said.

“Many Iranians, whether they like the regime or not, did consider Suleimani as a sort of national symbol,” said Raz Zimmt, an Iran specialist at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, and they see his assassination “as something that hurts national pride. ”Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, a prominent Iranian author who has spoken out for artistic freedom, wrote that “Iran once again lost one of its most honorable children.”

Since Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran has revived its nuclear program in stages, amid escalating conflicts with the United States. The European signers of the agreement promised to find a way to offset the effects of the sanctions, but so far have failed. Hints at renewed negotiations with Washington have gone nowhere.

“The moderates were already on life support” before the killing of General Suleimani, Mr. Nasr said, and Iran will hold legislative elections next month. “I would guess the hard-liners are going to do very well. This kind of pressure on Iran, just like in any country, plays into the hands of the security forces.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

In Era of Perpetual Conflict, a Volatile President Grabs Expanded Powers to Make War

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-assess1-sub-facebookJumbo In Era of Perpetual Conflict, a Volatile President Grabs Expanded Powers to Make War War and Emergency Powers (US) United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — The powers of an American president to wage war have grown stronger for nearly two decades, ever since the Sept. 11 attacks led the United States into an era of perpetual conflict.

Those powers are now in the hands of the most volatile president in recent memory.

President Trump’s decision to authorize the killing of a top Iranian military leader could be the match that sets off a regional conflagration, or it could have only marginal geopolitical impact like so many of the targeted killings ordered by Mr. Trump and his predecessors. But it is just the latest example of the capricious way in which the president, as commander in chief, has chosen to flex his lethal powers.

From his dealings with Iran, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, Mr. Trump has shown little evidence over the past three years that his decisions about war and peace are made after careful deliberation or serious consideration of the consequences.

In June, Mr. Trump shocked his vice president, his national security adviser and his secretary of state when he reversed himself and called off a strike against Iran with only 10 minutes to spare. That decision, days after Iran downed an American reconnaissance drone, came in part after Mr. Trump consulted Tucker Carlson, the Fox News personality, who reminded the president that he had pledged to get out of foreign conflicts rather than begin new ones. A strike on Iran, Mr. Carlson said, could anger the president’s political base.

A little more than six months later, Mr. Trump ordered the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who led Iran’s powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It was a move — set in motion after a rocket attack on Dec. 27 by forces linked to Iran killed an American contractor in Iraq — that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama considered too provocative to authorize.

The war-making powers that Congress granted to the president in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, combined with stunning advances in the technology of man-hunting, have given the inhabitant of the Oval Office the power to track and kill individuals practically anywhere on earth. General Suleimani was not even a particularly difficult target at Baghdad International Airport on Friday, when his convoy was hit by missiles fired by an American MQ-9 Reaper drone.

There have been attempts by lawmakers in recent years to limit the president’s abilities to wage new or expanded wars based on the authorities Congress granted in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. But with little support from leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill, those efforts have generally gone nowhere.

“Our country has, quite self-consciously, given one person, the President, an enormous sprawling military and enormous discretion to use it in ways that can easily lead to a massive war. That is our system: one person decides,” Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor and former Justice Department official during the George W. Bush administration, wrote on Friday on Twitter.

Mr. Trump’s suspicions about the national security and intelligence bureaucracy he inherited have guided his unorthodox decisions on other aspects of foreign policy, like writing flattering, personal letters to the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, and outsourcing much of his policy toward Ukraine to Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer. There has been a dizzying turnover in his national security team: In three years, the president has had four national security advisers, two secretaries of state, two defense secretaries and one acting defense secretary.

How Mr. Trump sees the killing of General Suleimani as advancing his broader agenda on Iran is unclear, and on Friday he seemed to portray the operation as something of a one-off: a necessary step to ensure that tensions between the United States and Iran do not spiral out of control. General Suleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” before “we caught him in the act and terminated him,” the president said from his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., although administration officials did not describe any threats that were different from what they said the general had been orchestrating for years.

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Mr. Trump said. The president’s decision to kill the general at this time appeared to many military experts as a potentially reckless escalation. But his policy toward Iran, what administration officials call a “maximum pressure” campaign, has long underestimated how the country would respond to economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

When Iranian operatives blew holes in oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in June and launched drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities in September, Mr. Trump opted in both cases against a direct, immediate military response. Still, one day after the drone strike targeting General Suleimani, the Pentagon announced it was sending around 3,000 more troops to Kuwait as a precaution against growing threats to American forces in the region.

Lindsay P. Cohn, a professor of international strategy at the Naval War College, said that Mr. Trump appears to be convinced that General Suleimani’s death will not lead to a significant surge of violence in the Middle East. It satisfies two imperatives for him: appearing to look tough without taking on, at least for now, any new commitments.

“He doesn’t want to get entangled. But he doesn’t want to look weak,” said Professor Cohn, adding that her opinions did not necessarily represent those of the Defense Department.

The president’s mercurial approach to Iran has left a trail of alienated allies — including European NATO allies angry about his decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and Arab nations in the Persian Gulf region uncertain about Mr. Trump’s resolve to support them in the face of direct attack from Iran.

Mr. Trump’s blunt language about the folly of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led some to conclude that he was shy about using force. The evidence shows the opposite, said Micah Zenko, a national security expert who writes frequently about American presidents and the use of military power.

During the three years of the Trump administration, airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia have sharply increased, as have civilian casualties, Mr. Zenko said. But rather than centralizing decisions about lethal force inside the White House, Mr. Trump has often devolved authority to military commanders.

Mr. Zenko described the president as a “passive hawk,” wanting to appear tough without making decisions about military force that could incite long-term commitments.

Less than 10 days in office, Mr. Trump authorized a risky commando raid in Yemen that killed several civilians and one Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens. Amid criticism for the botched raid, Mr. Trump put the blame on military commanders who, he said, “lost Ryan.”

Twice Mr. Trump ordered cruise missile attacks against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria in retaliation for chemical attacks on civilians there, something that Mr. Obama decided against. Administration officials said that Mr. Trump was particularly impressed by the success of the Special Operations raid in October that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, something that may have led the president toward approving the killing of General Soleimani.

One of Mr. Trump’s former national security advisers, John R. Bolton, who was pushed out in September because the president considered him an irritant and too much of a hawk, was suddenly praising Mr. Trump on Friday.

The killing of General Suleimani was the type of strike that Mr. Bolton had long advocated — and Mr. Trump had once rebuffed — and the former aide tweeted that he hoped it would be the “first step toward regime change in Iran.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani: What We Know Since the U.S. Airstrike

Video

transcript

Video Shows Aftermath of U.S. Strike That Killed Top Iran Commander

President Trump authorized the attack early Friday at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. But we caught him in the act. We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166605342_bb1d07c1-25be-4a96-8815-857e98b24a47-videoSixteenByNine3000 The Killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani: What We Know Since the U.S. Airstrike United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities) Baghdad International Airport (Iraq) Baghdad (Iraq)

President Trump authorized the attack early Friday at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.CreditCredit…Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg News

President Trump said Friday afternoon that the airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the powerful Iranian commander, was ordered “to stop a war” and prevented attacks on Americans.

“Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” he said, speaking to reporters from his resort in West Palm Beach, Fla. “We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war.”

Mr. Trump said the United States is not seeking regime change in Iran, but called for Tehran’s “aggression in the region” to immediately end. He also warned Iran against retaliating, saying, “If 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.”

He added, “that in particular refers to Iran.”

The airstrike directed by Mr. Trump dramatically ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran, and Iran’s leaders quickly promised retaliation for the general’s killing.

Around the time of the overnight strike, a Special Operations unit based in the United States boarded transport aircraft bound for the Middle East, one Defense Department official said.

The deployment of the elite Army Rangers was the latest to the region. This week, the Pentagon readied 4,000 troops based at Fort Bragg, N.C., for a similar security mission to Kuwait. They are to depart in the coming days, joining 750 troops already deployed, officials said.

“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities,” a Department of Defense spokesperson said.

General Suleimani, a powerful strategist who represented Iran’s influence across the region, was killed by an American drone at Baghdad’s airport, in an attack that had been authorized by President Trump.

Iraq’s Parliament planned to hold an emergency session over the weekend to address the airstrike, which Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called “a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a blatant attack on the nation’s dignity.” A powerful Iraqi militia leader was also killed.

The strike, regarded by analysts as perhaps the riskiest American move in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, threatened to inflame hostilities across the region.

Iran’s United Nations ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, called the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani “an act of war,” and vowed that it would be met with “revenge, a harsh revenge.”

“Last night, they started a military war by assassinating, by an act of terror, one of our top generals,” Mr. Takht Ravanchi said during an appearance Friday on CNN. “We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act.”

Asked if Iran would act militarily, Mr. Takht Ravanchi said: “That’s for the future to witness.”

In the hours after the American strike, thousands of pro-Iranian social media accounts went to work.

Accounts on Twitter and Instagram tagged the White House with death threats and posted images of President Trump with a severed head and coffins covered in the American flag, alongside the hashtag Operation Hard Revenge.

It was not clear whether the activity was the work of actual accounts or state-backed bots, according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. But they tweeted pro-Iranian, anti-American content at a rate of 3,000 tweets every 45 minutes, according to New York Times data.

The social media activity may just be an opening salvo, experts said.

Iran may begin a digital campaign of cyberattacks and disinformation in retaliation for General Suleimani’s death, they said. Tehran’s most likely target, the experts added, would be the American private sector.

Over the past year, Iranian hackers have taken aim at Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. They have also targeted telecom companies, infrastructure systems and more than 200 oil, gas and heavy machinery companies around the world.

The hackers have “developed the ability to disrupt critical infrastructure and they already have the ability to wipe data,” said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic Studies in Washington. “But they’ve gone well beyond that now. The question is what services — pipelines? dams? — will they target now.”

Iran is still not “at the top of the league” of countries with the ability to cause widespread destruction via cyberattacks, Mr. Lewis and other experts said. But Tehran is much further along than American officials gave it credit for in 2009, when a classified intelligence assessment concluded that it had the motivation to inflict harm, but lacked the skills and resources to do so.

Since 2010 — when an Iranian nuclear facility was the target of a joint American-Israeli cyberattack — Tehran has embraced such attacks as part its strategy of “asymmetrical warfare.” While Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps may never match the West in conventional warfare, its specialized teams have learned how much destruction they can cause to vulnerable systems, according to American intelligence assessments and private security researchers.

Over the past five years, American officials and cybersecurity experts have tracked Iranian hackers as they have significantly advanced their capabilities beyond wiping data to sophisticated attacks on financial networks, internet infrastructure, energy companies — and, even more disconcerting, sites like the Bowman Dam in Westchester County and the Energy Department’s Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls.

“They now have the ability to do serious harm,” Mr. Lewis said. “As the conflict with the U.S. continues, they’re going to be tempted. Expect to see a lot more testing of how far they can get into company networks, universities, federal networks and smaller government networks in towns and cities.”

An apparent airstrike hit a convoy belonging to a medical unit of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces near the town of Taji north of Baghdad early Saturday, killing at least four people, according to an official with the force.

The bodies were charred and not immediately identified, but were not believed to include senior leaders.

A United States military spokesman said he knew of no new American military action in Iraq.

Iranian leaders issued strident calls on Friday for revenge against the United States after the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in an overnight airstrike at the Baghdad airport.

His death is a considerable blow to Tehran, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for retaliation and for three days of national mourning.

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands,” the supreme leader said in a statement.

Iran’s security body also pledged to avenge General Suleimani’s killing in the “right place and time,” saying it had reached a decision on how to do so.

The American strike spurred mass displays of public mourning by Iran and its network of allies across the Middle East. Iranian officials said the general’s body would be taken on a funeral procession around Baghdad, and that a funeral would be held for him in Tehran on Sunday.

On Friday, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter about the strike, saying that General Suleimani “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more … but got caught!”

General Suleimani was the head of the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades.

The general’s prominent role meant that his death could have a ripple effect in any number of countries across the Middle East where Iran and the United States compete for influence.

Westlake Legal Group sat-airport-900 The Killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani: What We Know Since the U.S. Airstrike United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities) Baghdad International Airport (Iraq) Baghdad (Iraq)

Baghdad

International

Airport

Suleimani was in

a vehicle struck

by two missiles as

his convoy exited the airport.

airport st.

Westlake Legal Group sat-airport-600 The Killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani: What We Know Since the U.S. Airstrike United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities) Baghdad International Airport (Iraq) Baghdad (Iraq)

Baghdad

International

Airport

Suleimani was in a vehicle struck by two missiles as his convoy exited the airport.

airport st.

Westlake Legal Group sat-airport-335 The Killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani: What We Know Since the U.S. Airstrike United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities) Baghdad International Airport (Iraq) Baghdad (Iraq)

Baghdad

International

Airport

Suleimani was in a vehicle struck by two missiles as his convoy exited the airport.

airport st.

The New York Times; satellite image by Maxar via Bing.

The strike was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired missiles on a convoy of vehicles leaving the airport. Several other officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran were also killed.

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The United States has long been at odds with Iran over its nuclear program and influence in Iraq and other countries in the region. Those tensions have surged under the Trump administration.

The strike on Friday was the latest escalation between the two nations after a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, believed to have been carried out by an Iran-backed militia, killed an American contractor in December.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_128266949_6734f689-770c-40a7-8640-0a5d3fdfe31a-articleLarge The Killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani: What We Know Since the U.S. Airstrike United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces United States Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities) Baghdad International Airport (Iraq) Baghdad (Iraq)

Gas flares at an oil field in Kirkuk. Oil prices jumped on Friday after the news of the general’s killing.Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The State Department urged American citizens to leave Iraq immediately following the strike that killed General Suleimani in Baghdad, citing “heightened tensions.”

Oil prices jumped on Friday after the news of the general’s death: The price of Brent oil, the international benchmark, surged in the early hours of Hong Kong trading to nearly $70 a barrel — an increase of $3.

The immediate increase in the price of oil was among the largest since an attack on a critical Saudi oil installation in September that temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply.

By 11 a.m. in London, the price of Brent crude oil was at a three-month high of $69.20 a barrel. International oil companies based in the southeastern Iraqi city of Basra have begun evacuating American employees, according to Al Arabiya news outlet.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 each opened about 1 percent lower on Friday, while oil company shares rose, with Exxon Mobil up 1.3 percent and Chevron up 1.2 percent in premarket trading.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had spoken to top diplomats in Britain, China and Germany on Friday about what the State Department described as President Trump’s recent decision to carry out the strike “in response to imminent threats to American lives.”

Mr. Pompeo also told his foreign counterparts that the United States was committed to de-escalation, according to the State Department. Mr. Pompeo posted several statements and a video on Twitter that he said showed Iraqis “dancing in the street.”

“This was a man who has put American lives at risk for an awfully long time,” Mr. Pompeo said on Friday on CNN. “Last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack that he was working actively was disrupted.”

He declined to provide more details about the looming attack.

One American official familiar with the internal discussions about the drone strike said the administration was still trying to figure out what would come next.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the backlash over General Suleimani’s death could be even more fraught than the tensions after an American raid in 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, who was part of a stateless group and had no international support.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a diplomat from Switzerland, which represents American interests in Iran to maintain communication, had delivered a message from the United States to the Iranian Foreign Ministry in Tehran on Friday concerning the death of General Suleimani. It did not elaborate.

“Given the latest events in the region, Switzerland invites both parties to avoid any escalation,” the ministry said.

As the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which leads Iran’s operations abroad, General Suleimani, who was 62, was the country’s top security and intelligence commander. He was behind nearly all military and intelligence operations orchestrated by Iran in the past two decades and directed Iran-backed militias in the fight against the Islamic State.

American officials have also accused him of causing the deaths of hundreds of soldiers during the Iraq war and he was believed to have played a central role in orchestrating Iran’s support for the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

In Iran, General Suleimani was a respected political figure among hard-liners and was close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. To many Iranians, he was also a war hero, after becoming a commander while he was only in his 20s during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The general’s deputy succeeded him within hours, according to Iranian news agencies, with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appointing Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani as leader of the Quds Force on Friday.

General Qaani, 62, had been the force’s deputy commander since 1997, according to Reuters.

The United States Treasury Department put General Qaani on a blacklist in 2012 for what it called “financial disbursements” to various terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.

Large crowds gathered for Friday Prayer in Iran and filled public squares with mass protests, while officials met privately to plot strategy and leaders vowed to avenge General Suleimani’s death.

Images broadcast on Iranian state television showed thousands of supporters of General Suleimani gathered in mourning outside his house in the southeastern town of Kerman, and in other cities.

“The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime,” President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the strike an “act of international terrorism.”

Iran was working with Iraqi officials to repatriate the general’s body for a funeral service, perhaps as soon as Saturday, a number of Iranian journalists reported.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council also held an emergency meeting on Friday, which the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attended. The council issued a statement after the meeting saying it had reached a decision on how to respond to the killing, but did not say what that decision was.

“America must know the criminal attack on General Suleimani was its worst strategic mistake in the Middle East and that America will not escape the consequences easily,” the statement read. “As our supreme leader said in his message, a harsh revenge awaits the criminals who have the general’s blood on their hands. These criminals will face revenge at the right time and place.”

In Iraq, the strike appeared likely to accelerate calls for the departure of American troops. Along with General Suleimani, it killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of a powerful militia that is backed by Iran but under the umbrella of the Iraqi military.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq praised Mr. al-Muhandis and General Suleimani as heroes in the fight against the Islamic State and condemned their killing as a violation of sovereignty.

Friday’s strike in Baghdad also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader who was one of Iran’s top lieutenants in Iraq and a veteran of battles against the United States and the Islamic State.

Born Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, he was better known by his nom de guerre and gained prominence as mostly Shiite militias formed to fight the Islamic State in 2014. But he was a powerful force in Iraq for years, and his death alone would have sent shock waves through the country.

In 2009, the United States Treasury Department designated Mr. al-Muhandis a “threat to stability in Iraq” and accused him of helping smuggle rockets, sniper rifles and other weapons into the country from Iran.

Long before the Iraq war, he was accused of playing a role in the bombings of French and American Embassies in Kuwait in 1983, and the later attempt to assassinate Kuwait’s emir.

Much of Mr. al-Muhandis’s history remains murky, including his exact age: He would have been about 66 or 67 at the time of his death, according to the United States government, which has said he was born in 1953 in Basra, Iraq.

Mr. al-Muhandis fled Iraq with the rise of Saddam Hussein and spent years in exile in Iran, cultivating close ties with Iranian officials, becoming fluent in Persian and keeping a home in Tehran. He returned to Iraq in the aftermath of the American invasion in 2003 and briefly served in Iraq’s Parliament before dropping out of public view.

He helped found a militia that fought against the United States, and was accused of training and equipping a network of anti-American groups. The militia has continued to oppose the United States, and American officials blamed it for the rocket attack that killed an American contractor last week.

In a reflection of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq and the region, it was only five years after the Treasury Department put sanctions on Mr. al-Muhandis that he found himself effectively on the same side as the United States. The invasion of Iraq by the Islamic State from Syria gave his militia, Iran and the United States a common enemy.

Iranian allies across the Arab world condemned the United States, reflecting the strength of the regional network General Suleimani spent much of his life building, including links to the government of Syria and militant groups in Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and elsewhere.

The leader of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political party that General Suleimani helped build, vowed in a statement that his group would continue on the path the general set and “work night and day to achieve his goals.”

It was the responsibility of all resistance fighters to seek “just retribution” against “the most evil criminals in the world,” the leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said, meaning the United States.

In Yemen, the administration run by the Houthi rebels, who have received support from Iran in their war against Saudi Arabia, condemned the United States strike as a “cowardly attack” that “makes clear the increasing American spite against all who are in favor of justice for the Islamic world.”

In Syria, where General Suleimani oversaw a huge effort to shore up the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a foreign ministry official condemned the “treacherous, criminal American aggression” that led to his killing, the state news agency SANA reported on Friday.

António Guterres, the United Nations’ secretary general, voiced his deep concern over the recent rise in tensions in the Middle East, his spokesman, Farhan Haq, said in a statement.

“The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” the statement read. “This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint.”

The killing of General Suleimani “most likely” violated international law, Agnes Callamard, the United Nations expert on extrajudicial executions, said in a post on Twitter.

“Use of lethal force is only justified to protect against an imminent threat to life,” Ms. Callamard wrote. Use of drones for targeted killings outside active hostilities was “almost never likely to be legal,” she added.

Many experts also said on Friday that the strike probably ended any prospect of negotiations to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the landmark nuclear agreement Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. The recent escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran began with the 2018 decision by President Trump to withdraw from the deal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the killing of General Suleimani “an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region,” according to local news agencies.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for restraint on all sides, “especially the United States.”

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” the spokesman, Geng Shuang, said at a daily news briefing, according to news agencies.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, called on Friday for a de-escalation in tensions and said that further conflict in the region was not in his country’s interest.

“We have always recognized the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qassim Suleimani,” Mr. Raab said in a statement. “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate.”

Federica Mogherini, the European high representative for foreign and security policy, said on Twitter that the general’s killing was “an extremely dangerous escalation.”

In France, the country’s junior minister for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, said that she would soon consult with countries in the region.

“We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” Ms. de Montchalin told French radio, calling for “stability and de-escalation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cut short an official visit to Greece to return to Israel on Friday after the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Before boarding the plane, Mr. Netanyahu praised President Trump for “acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively.”

General Suleimani, a longtime adversary of Israel, was credited with overseeing many attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets and he was linked with an attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in the 1990s. More recently, he was behind military actions from Syria, across Israel’s northern frontier.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Palestinian coastal territory of Gaza, condemned what it called “U.S. bullying” that it said served the interests of Israel.

It offered condolences to Iran on the death of General Suleimani, saying in a statement that he had “played a major and critical role in supporting Palestinian resistance at all levels.”

Bassem Naim, a spokesman for the group, said on Twitter that the assassination “opens the doors of the region to all possibilities, except calm & stability.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that the administration brief the full Congress on the strike and the next steps under consideration, noting that the move was made without lawmakers’ consultation or an authorization of military force.

Ms. Pelosi spoke with Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, Thursday night after the attack, an aide said, but was not given advance notice.

The strike, Ms. Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday evening, “risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”

In stark contrast, Republican lawmakers — including both Iran hawks and those who have frequently clashed with Mr. Trump over his foreign policy — have almost uniformly praised the move.

“Will there be escalation? Yes. But the escalation is not on our part,” Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who was stationed twice in Iraq with the Air Force, told CNN. “We’re finally responding to continued provocations by Iran.”

The strike immediately spurred debate among American lawmakers about President Trump’s war powers and left congressional leaders sharply divided along party lines.

Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, accused Mr. Trump of bringing the nation “to the brink of an illegal war with Iran.”

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on Twitter that Mr. Trump had “exercised admirable restraint” and added that the Quds Force were “entirely to blame.”

Reporting was contributed by Ben Hubbard, Farnaz Fassihi, Megan Specia, Isabel Kershner, Ronen Bergman, Lara Jakes, Eileen Sullivan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Elian Peltier, Catie Edmondson, Benjamin Mueller, Alan Yuhas, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Nicole Perlroth, Ben Decker and Joan Nassivera.

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For Trump, a Risky Decision Other Presidents Had Avoided

WASHINGTON — President Trump was deep in discussion with political advisers going over campaign plans at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida just before 5 p.m. on Thursday when he was abruptly summoned to another meeting. A while later he returned just as mysteriously, jumping back into the conversation without offering a clue to what was going on.

In those few minutes, according to multiple people briefed on the events, Mr. Trump had made one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of his presidency, giving final authorization to a drone strike halfway around the world that would eliminate one of America’s deadliest enemies while pushing the United States to the edge of an escalating confrontation with Iran that could transform the Middle East.

The military operation that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian security and intelligence commander responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops over the years, was unlike the ones that took out Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, terrorist leaders caught after long manhunts. General Suleimani did not have to be hunted; a high-ranking official of the Iranian government, he was in plain sight for years. All that was required was a president to decide to pull the trigger.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama never did. Mr. Bush’s administration made a conscious decision not to kill General Suleimani when he was in the cross hairs and Mr. Obama’s administration evidently never made an effort to pursue him. Both reasoned that killing the most powerful general in Iran would only risk a wider war with Iran, alienating American allies in Europe and the Middle East and undermining the United States in a region that had already cost plenty of lives and treasure in the last two decades.

But Mr. Trump opted to take the risk they did not, determined to demonstrate after months of backing down following previous Iranian provocations that he would no longer stand by while General Suleimani roamed freely. “He should have been taken out many years ago!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday.

The question was why now? “This guy has been killing Americans in Iraq since 2003,” said Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets.org and an Iraq war veteran. “I was in one of his attacks in Taji in 2011. They were dropping 240-millimeter rockets on us. So this is not a surprise that he’s involved in killing Americans.”

“But the question is what was different last night?” he added. “The onus is on Trump to prove something was different, or this is no different than another weapons of mass destruction play.”

Aides said Mr. Trump was angry about a rocket attack last week by forces linked to Tehran that killed an American civilian contractor and stewed as he watched television images of pro-Iranian demonstrators storming the American Embassy in Baghdad in the days that followed, neither of which would normally result in such a seemingly disproportionate retaliation.

But senior officials said the decision to target General Suleimani grew out of a new stream of Iran threats to American embassies, consulates and military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. General Suleimani had just left Damascus, the Syrian capital, where he was planning an “imminent” attack that could claim hundreds of lives, officials said.

“We’d be negligent if we didn’t respond,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Friday in his Pentagon office. “The threat of inaction exceeded the threat of action.”

Still, officials offered scant details and only general explanations for why these reported threats were any different than the rocket attacks, roadside bombings and other assaults carried out by General Suleimani’s Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps over the years. “Size, scale and scope,” General Milley said without elaboration.

National security experts and even other officials at the Pentagon said they were unaware of anything drastically new about Iranian behavior in recent weeks; General Suleimani has been accused of prodding Shiite militias into attacking Americans for more than a decade.

The drone strike came at a fraught time for the president, who faces a Senate trial after being impeached by the House largely along party lines last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. While advisers insisted politics had nothing to do with the decision, the timing was bound to raise questions in an era marked by deep suspicion across party lines.

General Suleimani was not a particularly elusive target. Unlike bin Laden or al-Baghdadi, he moved about quite freely in a number of countries, frequently popping up meeting with Iranian allies or visiting front-line positions in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. He traveled with an air of impunity. His fans distributed photographs of him on social media, and he occasionally gave interviews. One former senior American commander recalled once parking his military jet next to General Suleimani’s plane at the Erbil airport in northern Iraq.

“Suleimani was treated like royalty, and was not particularly hard to find,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior C.I.A. operations officer with extensive counterterrorism experience overseas. “Suleimani absolutely felt untouchable, particularly in Iraq. He took selfies of himself on the battlefield and openly taunted the U.S., because he felt safe in doing so.”

That public profile made him the face of the Iranian network across the Middle East, the so-called Axis of Resistance, which includes groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen and a range of militias in Syria and Iraq who share Iran’s animosity toward Israel and the United States. General Suleimani wanted to show that he could be anywhere and everywhere, an American official said, knowing he could be a target but obsessed with proving he had his hand in everything.

If General Suleimani acted untouchable, for years he was. One night in January 2007, American Special Operations commandos tracked him traveling in a convoy from Iran into northern Iraq. But the Americans held their fire and General Suleimani slipped away into the darkness.

“To avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the head of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, recalled in an article last year.

Until now, Mr. Trump had shied away from military action against Iran too. While he talked tough after Iran was blamed for various attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump declined to use force, at one point even calling off a planned airstrike with only 10 minutes to go.

An American official who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations said the president’s advisers worried that he had indicated so many times that he did not want a war with Iran that Tehran had become persuaded the United States would not act forcibly. But the official acknowledged that the strike was a huge gamble and could just as likely prompt an outsize reaction from both Iran and Iraq.

Westlake Legal Group iraq-embassy-baghdad-airport-attack-1578026455663-articleLarge-v6 For Trump, a Risky Decision Other Presidents Had Avoided United States Special Operations Command Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Defense and Military Forces central intelligence agency Baghdad (Iraq)

Maps: How the Confrontation Between the U.S. and Iran Escalated

Here’s how the situation developed over the last eight days.

The operation culminated three years of rising tension since Mr. Trump took office and followed through on his pledge to withdraw from the nuclear agreement that Mr. Obama brokered with Iran in 2015. As part of a “maximum pressure” campaign, Mr. Trump reimposed sanctions on Tehran to strangle its economy while Iran tested the American president with a string of provocative actions.

The mission to target General Suleimani was set in motion after a rocket attack last Friday on an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk killed an American civilian contractor, according to senior American officials. The military’s Special Operations Command spent the next several days looking for an opportunity to hit General Suleimani. Military and intelligence officials said the strike drew on information from secret informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance tools.

The option that was eventually approved depended on General Suleimani’s arrival at Baghdad International Airport. If he was met by Iraqi officials, one American official said, the strike would be called off. But the official said it was a “clean party” and the strike was authorized.

Mr. Trump, who was spending the holiday season at Mar-a-Lago, participated in multiple meetings on the operation and aides said that he did not struggle with the decision, unlike over the summer when he changed his mind citing possible civilian casualties. “It was a very straightforward decision by the president to make the call on this,” Robert C. O’Brien, his national security adviser, told reporters.

As late as Thursday, officials were still weighing other less inflammatory options, including strikes against Iranian ships, missile batteries or militias in Iraq, one official said. But aides noted that Mr. Trump has grown wary of warnings that bold actions will result in negative consequences since in some cases those have not materialized, notably in his trade war.

The president kept the discussions to a tight circle that included Mr. O’Brien; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Defense Secretary Marc T. Esper; Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director; Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff; and Eric Ueland, the president’s legislative liaison. Left out of the loop was the White House communications operation.

Mr. Pompeo has been one of the administration’s most persistent Iran hawks and the public face of the sanctions campaign against Iran since Mr. Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement brokered by Mr. Obama.

As a congressman, Mr. Pompeo assailed the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton over the deadly attack on an American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and he has been obsessed with embassy security in the Middle East, and in Iraq in particular, according to former officials and associates. The violent protests in recent days at the Baghdad Embassy spooked the secretary, officials said, prompting him to cancel an important trip to Ukraine.

The administration did not offer a legal justification for the strike but appeared to be relying on the claim that it was a matter of self-defense under international law and pursuant to the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief. “We had the right to self-defense,” Mr. O’Brien said.

The strike was particularly unusual in that it targeted a top official in a national government. Since the late 1970s, an executive order has banned “assassinations.” But that constraint, while still in place on paper, has eroded in the fight against terrorism. Legal teams under presidents of both parties have argued that the term “assassination,” which is not defined by federal law or the order, does not cover killing terrorists and other people deemed to pose an imminent threat to the United States because that would instead be self-defense.

Against that backdrop, it may be relevant that last year, Mr. Trump designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization — the first time that the United States had so designated part of another nation’s government.

However the lawyers rationalized it, General McChrystal, who passed on taking the shot at General Suleimani 13 years ago, said Mr. Trump was right to take it now. “The targeting was appropriate given Suleimani’s very public role in orchestrating Iranian attacks on the U.S. and our allies,” he said in an email.

But the general added a somber warning: “We can’t consider this as an isolated action. As with all such actions it will impact the dynamics of the region, and Iran will likely feel compelled to respond in kind. There is the potential for a stair-step escalation of attacks and we must think several moves ahead to determine how far we will take this — and what the new level of conflict we are prepared to engage in.”

Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from Palm Beach, Fla. Edward Wong and Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.

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U.S. and Iran Exchange More Threats as Democrats Question Timing of Strike

WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran exchanged escalating military threats on Friday as President Trump warned that he was “prepared to take whatever action is necessary” if Iran threatened Americans and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed to exact vengeance for the killing on Mr. Trump’s order of Iran’s most valued general.

Although Mr. Trump insisted that he took the action to avoid a war with Iran, the continuing threats further rattled foreign capitals, global markets and Capitol Hill, where Democrats demanded more information about the strike and Mr. Trump’s grounds for taking such a provocative and risky move without consulting Congress. Democrats also pressed questions about the attack’s timing and whether it was meant to deflect attention from the president’s expected impeachment trial this month in the Senate.

Speaking to reporters in a hastily arranged appearance at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, Mr. Trump asserted that Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who directed Iranian paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, “was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.”

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Mr. Trump’s remarks, as did Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser. But General Milley, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. O’Brien and other senior administration officials did not describe any new specific threats that were different from what American officials say General Suleimani had been orchestrating for years.

In Baghdad, the State Department urged American citizens to leave Iraq immediately, citing “heightened tensions.” The American Embassy, which had been under siege by pro-Iranian protesters chanting “Death to America” in recent days, suspended consular operations. “U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy,” the State Department warned on Twitter.

At Fort Bragg, N.C., some 3,500 members of the 82nd Airborne, ordered to the Middle East this week, prepared to deploy to Kuwait.

On Wall Street, the stock market fell as oil prices jumped after the news of the general’s death: The price of Brent oil, the international benchmark, surged in the early hours of Hong Kong trading to nearly $70 a barrel — an increase of $3.

The immediate increase in the price of oil was among the largest since an attack on a critical Saudi oil installation in September that temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s supply.

Mr. Trump said that the killing early Friday of General Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was long overdue. He insisted he did not want a larger fight with Iran.

“We took action last night to stop a war,” the president said. “We did not take action to start a war.” But he also warned Iran that the American military had “already fully identified” potential targets for further attacks “if Americans anywhere are threatened.”

Hours earlier, Mr. Khamenei issued his own warning to Mr. Trump about General Suleimani’s death from a missile fired by an American MQ-9 Reaper drone at the general’s convoy at Baghdad International Airport.

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission,” Mr. Khamenei said in a statement, “but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”

Mr. Pompeo, an Iran hawk, said a planned attack on Americans had been “imminent” before the Reaper strike.

Writing on Twitter earlier in the day, Mr. Trump suggested that General Suleimani “got caught” preparing to hit American targets.

“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!” Mr. Trump tweeted, using a different spelling of the commander’s name. “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself.”

An American official said diplomats in Baghdad were nervous about the embassy being the target of retaliation, but noted that Iran had many options and an embassy attack by pro-Iran militias was only one of them. The embassy is among the most fortified American outposts in the world, and there are other less-guarded targets that Iran could choose.

The White House approved the strike on General Suleimani after a rocket attack last Friday on an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk killed an American civilian contractor and injured other American and Iraqi personnel, according to an American official who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal decision making. The Joint Special Operations Command spent the next several days looking for an opportunity.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_166601625_c1a031ab-66c3-4d61-9be7-a2e0845e24b5-articleLarge U.S. and Iran Exchange More Threats as Democrats Question Timing of Strike Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Soleimani, Qassem Pompeo, Mike Obama, Barack Iraq Iran Bush, George W bin Laden, Osama

Protesters on Friday in Tehran with signs depicting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.Credit…Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The option that was eventually approved depended on General Suleimani’s arrival on Thursday at Baghdad International Airport. If he was met by Iraqi officials, the American official said, the strike would be called off. But the official said it turned out to be a “clean party,” and the strike was approved.

It touched off an immediate debate in Washington, with Republicans hailing the action as a decisive blow against a longtime enemy with American blood on his hands and Democrats expressing concern that the president was risking a new war in the Middle East.

Westlake Legal Group iraq-embassy-baghdad-airport-attack-1578026455663-articleLarge-v6 U.S. and Iran Exchange More Threats as Democrats Question Timing of Strike Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Soleimani, Qassem Pompeo, Mike Obama, Barack Iraq Iran Bush, George W bin Laden, Osama

Maps: How the Confrontation Between the U.S. and Iran Escalated

Here’s how the situation developed over the last eight days.

With Congress returning to town after the holidays for a presumed Senate impeachment trial, Mr. Trump risked suspicion that he was taking action overseas to distract from his political troubles at home, à la the political movie “Wag the Dog.”

As a private citizen, Mr. Trump repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of preparing to go to war with Iran to bolster his re-election chances in 2012. As president, Mr. Trump has questioned his own intelligence agencies and peddled repeated falsehoods, a record that could undermine the administration’s credibility on the highly delicate subject.

Democratic leaders complained that Mr. Trump acted without consulting or even telling Congress first. The president responded by retweeting a post comparing Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to the Iranians.

The post by Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative commentator who was pardoned by Mr. Trump for a campaign finance violation, scoffed at Mr. Schumer’s complaint that he was not told in advance. “Neither were the Iranians, and for pretty much the same reason,” Mr. D’Souza wrote in the tweet reposted by Mr. Trump.

John R. Bolton, the hawkish former national security adviser who left his job in September after clashes with Mr. Trump on Iran and other issues, offered “congratulations” on the killing of General Suleimani and said it was a “decisive blow” against the Quds Force. Posting on Twitter, he added he hoped that this was the “first step to regime change in Tehran” — a policy position that Mr. Trump has in the past rejected.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said that a classified briefing was being arranged for all senators next week and that everyone should welcome the demise of General Suleimani. “For too long, this evil man operated without constraint and countless innocents have suffered for it,” Mr. McConnell said on the floor. “Now his terrorist leadership has been ended.”

Democrats said Mr. Trump was playing a dangerous game that could further involve the United States in Middle East conflict rather than pull out as he has promised. “President Trump came into office saying he wanted to end America’s wars in the Middle East, but today we are closer to war with Iran than ever before and the Administration’s reckless policy over the last 3 years has brought us to the brink,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland wrote on Twitter.

General Suleimani, the driving force behind Iranian-sponsored attacks and operations over two decades around the region including Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, was considered perhaps the second-most powerful figure in Iran, and Ayatollah Khamenei vowed to exact a “forceful revenge.”

In an unusual move, the ayatollah attended an emergency meeting of the Supreme National Security Council. “America must know the criminal attack on General Suleimani was its worst strategic mistake in the Middle East and that America will not escape the consequences easily,” the council said afterward. “As our Supreme Leader said in his message, a harsh revenge awaits the criminals who have the general’s blood on their hands. These criminals will face revenge at the right time and place.”

Mr. Pompeo said in a TV appearance that the United States had intelligence that General Suleimani was preparing a specific, new operation to target Americans in the Middle East, but declined to elaborate.

“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,” Mr. Pompeo said on CNN. “It was imminent.”

He dismissed concerns raised by American allies, who expressed fear of a wider war in the Middle East. A French minister suggested that “we are waking up in a more dangerous world” following the strike.

“Yeah, well, the French are just wrong about that,” Mr. Pompeo said. “The world is a much safer place today. And I can assure you Americans in the region are much safer today after the demise of Qassim Suleimani.”

Mr. Pompeo spoke on Friday to top officials in France, Britain, Germany, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and told his foreign counterparts that the United States was committed to protecting American interests abroad, according to State Department statements. In recent days, he also spoke with leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which like Saudi Arabia consider Iran an enemy.

A top Chinese Communist Party official, Yang Jiechi, told Mr. Pompeo in their telephone call that China, Iran’s most powerful partner, was “highly concerned” about the situation in the Middle East and that “differences should be resolved through dialogue,” Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry official, wrote on Twitter. He added that Mr. Yang stressed that all parties, “especially U.S., should exercise restraint.”

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spoke by telephone and agreed to try to “prevent a new and dangerous escalation of tensions,” according to a summary issued by Mr. Macron’s office. The French president also stressed the fight against the Islamic State should be a priority, as well as efforts to get Iran to return to compliance on the 2015 nuclear agreement, from which Mr. Trump withdrew but that Russia, China and three European nations still support.

The decision to hit General Suleimani complicates relations with Iraq’s government, which has tried to balance itself between the United States and Iran.

A senior Iraqi official said Friday that there was a good chance the Iraqi Parliament, which is being convened by the prime minister for an emergency session, would vote to force American troops to leave Iraq. Top Iraqi leaders earlier had wanted to accommodate the troop presence because of the persistent threat from the Islamic State and other regional security matters.

Michael Crowley, Peter Baker and Edward Wong reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from Palm Beach, Fla. Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington, and Farnaz Fassihi from New York.

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What to Know About the Death of Iranian General Suleimani

The American drone attack near the Baghdad airport early Friday that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the powerful Iranian commander, drastically ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran, threatening to tip hostilities into war.

Here’s what to know about what happened and what comes next.

General Suleimani was Iran’s most powerful security and intelligence commander. He was the longtime leader of its Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the foreign-facing branch of the country’s powerful security apparatus.

He worked closely with Iraqi and Lebanese allies, nurturing proxy forces to form a Shiite axis of power throughout the region. His profile rose amid the fight to prop up President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and later the fight against the Islamic State.

He had long been designated as a terrorist by the United States and Israel, but many in Iran lauded him as a hero.

Read a full profile of General Suleimani here.

The drone strike also killed several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Iran. Among them were Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of Iraqi militias, and the group’s public relations chief, Mohammed Ridha Jabri. Mr. al-Muhandis was a lifelong ally of Iran, and he rose to prominence fighting the Islamic State. Read more about him here.

The New York Times

In a statement after the strike, the Pentagon accused General Suleimani of planning attacks on American diplomats and service members, including a Dec. 27 attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor. It also accused General Suleimani of approving an attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad this week.

American officials have previously blamed General Suleimani for killing hundreds of Americans in the Iraq war by providing Iraqi insurgents with bomb-making equipment and training. They say he was the architect of destabilizing Iranian activities throughout the region aimed at the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

On Friday afternoon, the president told reporters in West Palm Beach, Fla., that the airstrike had been ordered “to stop a war.” He said the United States was not seeking regime change in Iran, but called for an immediate end to Tehran’s “aggression in the region.”

A New York Times news analysis called the strike “the riskiest move made by the United States in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.”

Video

transcript

Video Shows Aftermath of U.S. Strike That Killed Top Iran Commander

President Trump authorized the attack early Friday at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. But we caught him in the act. We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166605342_bb1d07c1-25be-4a96-8815-857e98b24a47-videoSixteenByNine3000 What to Know About the Death of Iranian General Suleimani Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Quds Force Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iraq Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes) Defense and Military Forces

President Trump authorized the attack early Friday at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.CreditCredit…Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg News

In Iran, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “forceful revenge” for the general’s killing, and for three days of national mourning.

Max Fisher, the Interpreter columnist for The Times, laid out some possibilities for what may come next. The general’s death, he writes, “meets virtually any definition of an act of war, a categorical difference from the shadow conflicts that the United States and Iran have engaged in for years.”

“But it remains uncertain where this attack, which follows weeks of tit-for-tat escalations between the two countries, will lead,” he added. Read his full analysis here.

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Airstrike Pushes National Security to Forefront of 2020 Race

Westlake Legal Group 03iran-dems-sanders-facebookJumbo Airstrike Pushes National Security to Forefront of 2020 Race Warren, Elizabeth Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

The American strike in Baghdad that killed the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani thrust foreign policy to the center of the Democratic presidential race, drawing expressions of grave concern from the leading candidates and stoking a new debate in the party about the American military presence in the Middle East.

The party’s presidential field reacted to the attack with a measure of unity, at least on the surface level, condemning General Suleimani’s role directing violence against Americans but criticizing what they called the Trump administration’s penchant for reckless action and the threat of all-out war.

But during a series of campaign events on Friday, the top Democrats began to signal their differences on matters of national security, opening the way for what could become the party’s most serious conversation of the race about war and peace. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose long diplomatic résumé and global stature have been seen as crucial assets to his campaign, seized the occasion to remind voters of his experience, pressing them to elect a president who could “command the world stage with no on-the-job training.”

Delivering stern remarks in Dubuque, Iowa, Mr. Biden said President Trump was risking nuclear proliferation and “direct conflict with Iran.” On Twitter, he described the president as “erratic, unstable and dangerously incompetent.”

“The threat to American lives and interests in the region and around the world are enormous,” Mr. Biden said in Iowa.

But elsewhere in the state, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called not just for the replacement of an impulsive president but for a wholesale overhaul of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Opening a town-hall-style meeting in Anamosa, Iowa, with a somber address, Mr. Sanders urged a total military pullback from the region and noted at length that he had forcefully opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, without explicitly mentioning that Mr. Biden had voted to authorize the war.

“We need to firmly commit to ending the U.S. military presence in the Middle East in an orderly manner, not through a tweet,” Mr. Sanders said, reiterating his past calls for a pullout from Afghanistan and an end to cooperation with Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. “Instead of provoking more volatility in the region, the United States must use its power, its wealth and its influence to bring the regional powers to the table to resolve conflicts.”

And Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who in the past has urged a pullout of all American combat troops from the Middle East, echoed that sentiment on Twitter, warning that the country was “on the brink of yet another war” and urging Americans to mobilize against military escalation. “No more Middle East Wars,” she wrote.

Both Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren used the word “assassination” to describe the killing of General Suleimani, a term that has significant legal and diplomatic implications.

Whether military matters come to dominate the primary, in the remaining month before the Iowa caucuses, is likely to depend on events in Iraq and Iran — and perhaps in neighboring countries — and how severe and visible any ensuing clash with Iran turns out to be. Foreign affairs have so far played a strictly limited role in the Democratic race.

There have been major debate-stage duels over health care, taxation, immigration, criminal justice and gun control, but only glancing disagreements about the role of the United States abroad and the proper way to resolve American military engagements in the Middle East and Central Asia.

On Friday, much of the Democratic field proceeded with — and recommended — caution. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York released a statement questioning whether the president had fully considered “the grave risks involved” before authorizing the strike, while Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota called on the Trump administration to consult with Congress about a “strategy for preventing a wider conflict.”

And in North Conway, N.H., Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., called the Baghdad attack “an extremely provocative act,” noting that Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had both considered but opted against attempting to kill General Suleimani.

“If we have learned nothing else from the Middle East in the last 20 years, it’s that taking out a bad guy is not a good idea unless you are ready for what’s coming next,” said Mr. Buttigieg, who referred several times to his own service in the military.

The possibility of a new and protracted conflict abroad could well reshape the general election, even beyond the Democratic race. Mr. Trump ran for president on a pledge to pull back the United States from foreign wars, drawing support from unconventional quarters for a Republican because of the perception that he would pursue an “America First” policy of relative isolationism and national self-interest.

But Mr. Trump had already drawn criticism from his Democratic rivals, and even within his own party, for presiding over a chaotic pullback from Syria, and the eruption of large-scale violence in Iran and Iraq could profoundly complicate his aim to seek a second term on a message of peace and prosperity. After Thursday’s attack, the Trump administration announced that thousands more troops would deploy to the region in anticipation of Iranian action.

At Democratic campaign events on Friday, there was already a strong ripple of anxiety running through the primary electorate, as voters who turned out to see several candidates voiced alarm as they imagined what Mr. Trump might do next.

“Nobody wants war, and that’s what I am afraid of, is that there is going to be war,” said Brenda Bachman, a 63-year-old from Marengo, Iowa, who had come to see Mr. Sanders. “We don’t need war.”

Ross Mercer, 37, a disabled Navy veteran in New Hampshire who served two tours in Iraq, said at Mr. Buttigieg’s event that he was worried about Iranian retaliation.

“We attacked their country first and I’m scared that they’re going to come back and attack our country,” Mr. Mercer said.

There is some precedent for events overseas reshaping American primary elections, often to the benefit of a candidate regarded as a figure of experience — in this case, perhaps Mr. Biden. In December 2003, the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq formed a backdrop for the final phase of a Democratic presidential primary that yielded the quick nomination of John F. Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Four years later, in 2007, the troop surge in Afghanistan and the December assassination of a former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, in Pakistan pushed national security to the center of an unsettled Republican primary that ended with the nomination of John S. McCain, the war hero whose campaign focused overwhelmingly on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kevin Madden, a political strategist who advised Mr. Bush and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, said national security tended to become an election issue in response to major external developments. He cited the Benghazi attack in the fall of 2012 and the Paris nightclub massacre in 2015 as other recent examples.

“Every recent contest has had one of these events,’’ Mr. Madden said, “where everything seems to stop and cause all the participants, from the candidates and campaigns to the voters and the media, to recalibrate the stakes of the election through the lens of national security and foreign policy.”

But an intensifying debate over foreign policy could have the effect of both spotlighting Mr. Biden’s extensive track record in the Middle East and subjecting it to new scrutiny. There have been signs in recent days that several of the leading Democratic candidates were angling for a foreign policy debate with Mr. Biden, even before the outbreak of violence in Iraq and the Suleimani killing came to consume the news.

Mr. Sanders has campaigned consistently on his antiwar record, and he has repeatedly highlighted Mr. Biden’s past support for the Iraq war, warning Democrats that Mr. Trump would use that record against the former vice president in a general election. On Friday morning, an aide to Mr. Sanders posted images on Twitter showing the progressive lawmaker speaking out against war in Iraq in 1991, 1998, 2002 and 2014.

Mr. Buttigieg has attempted to counter questions about his own relative inexperience by pointing to Mr. Biden’s stances on Iraq, as an example of how experience was not always an asset in campaigning or governing.

“He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq,” Mr. Buttigieg said in an Iowa television interview.

Mr. Sanders’s speech on Friday also indicated how he might use foreign policy to separate himself from other senators who are running for president: He pointed out that he has voted against all of Mr. Trump’s military budgets, a distinction that Ms. Warren and Ms. Klobuchar cannot claim.

It is impossible to predict precisely how an extended debate over foreign affairs might alter the dynamics of the Democratic race. On Friday, some voters said they yearned for a candidate with Biden-like credentials, while others said they wanted one with a Sanders-like aversion to war.

“I don’t think it would have escalated to this point if he was the current president,” Craig Bruxvoort, a 62-year-old Iowa voter, said of Mr. Sanders.

At Mr. Biden’s event in Dubuque, Karen Sudmeier, a retired teacher, said she had begun the day considering several options — including Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Buttigieg — but after hearing Mr. Biden speak about the Middle East she had decided to support him.

“Joe knew everything about it,” said Ms. Sudmeier, 72. “He had a plan. And the consequences he laid out of what could happen, I thought, were frightening.”

Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting from North Conway, N.H., Sydney Ember from Anamosa, Iowa, and Katie Glueck from Dubuque, Iowa,

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Iranian General Traveled With Impunity, Until U.S. Drones Found Him

WASHINGTON — One night in January 2007, American Special Operations commandos tracked a notorious adversary driving in a convoy from Iran into northern Iraq: Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander.

But the Americans held their fire, and General Suleimani slipped away into the darkness.

Video

transcript

Video Shows Aftermath of U.S. Strike That Killed Top Iran Commander

President Trump authorized the attack early Friday at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

Suleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. But we caught him in the act. We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166605342_bb1d07c1-25be-4a96-8815-857e98b24a47-videoSixteenByNine3000 Iranian General Traveled With Impunity, Until U.S. Drones Found Him United States Special Operations Command Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Defense and Military Forces central intelligence agency Baghdad (Iraq)

President Trump authorized the attack early Friday at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.CreditCredit…Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg News

“To avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the head of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, recalled in an article last year.

But early Friday, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone from General McChrystal’s former command — operating under President Trump’s orders — fired missiles into a convoy carrying General Suleimani as it was leaving Baghdad’s international airport. What remained unclear is why Mr. Trump chose this moment to strike the top military leader of Iran, after two presidents before him opted not to do so, out of concern that killing the general could incite a wider war with Iran.

Westlake Legal Group iraq-embassy-baghdad-airport-attack-1578026455663-articleLarge-v6 Iranian General Traveled With Impunity, Until U.S. Drones Found Him United States Special Operations Command Trump, Donald J Terrorism Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Defense and Military Forces central intelligence agency Baghdad (Iraq)

Maps: How the Confrontation Between the U.S. and Iran Escalated

Here’s how the situation developed over the last eight days.

National security experts and even officials at the Pentagon said there was nothing new about Iranian behavior in recent months or even weeks; General Suleimani has been accused of prodding Shiite militias into attacking Americans for more than a decade. American officials have also blamed him, for more than a decade, of working with organizations in other countries, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel as well as the Houthis in Yemen, to attack American allies and interests.

Senior Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, repeatedly said on Friday that new attacks under General Suleimani’s leadership were imminent.

But one Defense Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said that there was nothing new in the threat presented by the Iranian general.

And critics of the strike questioned whether its timing was meant to influence public opinion as Mr. Trump faces impeachment.

On Thursday night, around the time of the strike on General Suleimani, a Special Operations unit based in the United States boarded transport aircraft bound for the Middle East, one Defense Department official said. The deployment of the elite Army Rangers is the latest group of troops sent to the region. This week, the Pentagon readied 4,000 paratroopers based at Fort Bragg, N.C., for a similar security mission to Kuwait. They are to depart in coming days, joining 750 troops already deployed, officials said.

Tracking General Suleimani’s location had long been a priority for the American and Israeli spy services and militaries, especially when he was in Iraq.

General Suleimani often traveled with an air of impunity, as if he felt he was untouchable, officials said. One former senior American commander recalled parking his military jet next to General Suleimani’s plane at the Erbil airport in northern Iraq.

Current and former American commanders and intelligence officials said that Friday morning’s attack drew specifically upon a combination of information from secret informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance tools.

The highly classified mission to locate and strike General Suleimani was set in motion after the death of an American contractor last Friday, according to senior American officials. The military’s Special Operations Command spent the next several days looking for an opportunity to strike. An option provided, and eventually approved, was dependent on General Suleimani’s arrival at Baghdad International Airport. If he was met by Iraqi officials, one American official said, the strike would be called off. But, the official said, it was a “clean party,” and the strike was approved.

Mr. Trump’s decision to kill General Suleimani was one that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected, fearing it would lead to war.

General McChrystal praised Mr. Trump’s decision to do so.

“The targeting was appropriate given Suleimani’s very public role in orchestrating Iranian attacks on the U.S. and our allies,” he said in an email.

But the general added a somber warning: “We can’t consider this as an isolated action. As with all such actions it will impact the dynamics of the region, and Iran will likely feel compelled to respond in kind.

“There is the potential for a stair-step escalation of attacks, and we must think several moves ahead to determine how far we will take this — and what the new level of conflict we are prepared to engage in,” he said.

American military officials said they were aware that Iran or its proxy forces potentially could respond violently, and were taking steps to protect American personnel in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. They declined to provide details.

“I can only hope that embassies and consulates across the region were put on heightened alert in the last 48 hours or more,” said Barbara A. Leaf, a former United States ambassador to the United Arab Emirates who is now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“That said, I would be surprised to see the Iranians respond quickly to this,” she said. “Once the regime has recovered from its initial shock, it will take its time plotting reprisals. And reprisals there will be, most likely in Iraq first. But our gulf partners should worry as well — assassinations, strikes on shipping and energy infrastructure.”

In the end, General Suleimani’s brazenness may have been his undoing. Unlike terrorist leaders like Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, General Suleimani often operated in the open.

“Suleimani was treated like royalty, and was not particularly hard to find,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior C.I.A. operations officer with extensive counterterrorism experience overseas who retired last year. “Suleimani absolutely felt untouchable, particularly in Iraq. He took selfies of himself on the battlefield and openly taunted the U.S., because he felt safe in doing so.”

General Suleimani wanted to show that he could be anywhere and everywhere, the American official said, adding that he knew he could be a target but was obsessed with his image and could prove he had his hand in everything.

A senior American official said that the administration’s hope was that the killing of General Suleimani would force Iran to back down after months of assertive behavior, much as Tehran backed down from rapidly escalating hostilities during the oil tanker wars of the 1980s.

The officials said there was worry among the president’s senior advisers that Mr. Trump has indicated so many times that he did not want a war with Iran that Tehran had become persuaded the United States would not act forcibly.

But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the killing of Mr. Suleimani was a huge risk for Mr. Trump and could just as likely prompt an outsize reaction from both Iran and Iraq.

“Iran has a lot of levers to pull too,” warned Derek Chollet, who served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. “So much for ending ‘endless wars.’ ”

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Cash-Rich Democrats Brace for Long Fight as Trump Hoards Money

Westlake Legal Group 02campfin-sanders-facebookJumbo Cash-Rich Democrats Brace for Long Fight as Trump Hoards Money Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanders, Bernard Republican National Committee Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Campaign Finance Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Bloomberg, Michael R Biden, Joseph R Jr

A flood of money rushed into the presidential race in the last three months of 2019, producing an unusually large number of Democratic candidates with the resources to battle deep into the 2020 primary calendar, all vying for the right to face an incumbent president boasting his own enormous war chest.

The five strongest Democratic fund-raisers are expected to report over $115 million raised in just the final quarter of the year, and they join two self-funding billionaires who are pouring their fortunes into expansive advertising campaigns.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is pacing the Democratic field, announcing on Thursday that he had raised $34.5 million in the last three months — the largest sum of any Democrat in any quarter so far. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., collected $24.7 million, and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised $22.7 million, his best showing of the year. Senator Elizabeth Warren said early Friday she had raised $21.2 million, a slight decrease from the previous quarter.

In a sign of how widespread the money windfall was, Andrew Yang, the former entrepreneur who was unknown nationally a year ago, raised a striking total of $16.5 million in the fourth quarter — more than Mr. Biden had managed in the third.

Whoever emerges from the fractious Democratic primary will face a financial powerhouse in President Trump, who leveraged the impeachment fight of recent months to shatter his previous fund-raising records, collecting $46 million in the fourth quarter, his campaign said Thursday. He enters 2020 with $102.7 million in cash on hand.

While Mr. Trump is stockpiling cash for the general election, Democrats are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars in the coming months taking aim at one another in an intensifying primary fight. And with an uncommonly high number of well-funded candidates in a surprisingly fluid race, party leaders are bracing for an extended nomination battle, especially if the first four states to vote in February deliver a split verdict.

“Put your seatbelts on, because I do expect we’re in for a protracted race to the finish line,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the House Democratic leadership.

The fact that so many candidates can simultaneously raise so much money is a testament to the rising power of small, online donors in presidential politics. Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren combined to raise more than $160 million in 2019 while refusing to hold any traditional fund-raisers with large contributors. And Mr. Biden credited his recent fund-raising uptick to increased online support, which doubled from the previous quarter.

Ami Copeland, who was deputy national finance director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, said that the fourth-quarter numbers “really just lock in that top tier, period,” and that the candidates’ substantial financial resources would “create some legs to this primary process.”

“This is going to go on for a while,” Mr. Copeland added.

Awaiting the top Democratic contenders in March is the billionaire former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg. Though he is skipping the first four states, Mr. Bloomberg has already spent nearly $140 million of his fortune on television ads, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics, mostly in the Super Tuesday states that will vote in early March and other states that will follow.

The scope of Mr. Bloomberg’s spending is staggering: He has reserved more in TV ads, $37 million, in the first days of January than the fund-raising leader, Mr. Sanders, had collected in the final three months from more than 1.8 million contributions.

The high number of candidates with significant resources — the billionaire Tom Steyer is filling the airwaves in the four early states with ads, as well — has stirred early worries that the party could go all the way to its July convention without a nominee, which would drastically truncate the window to focus on combating Mr. Trump.

“To have the best chance of beating Trump and moving on to the general, candidates will need to drop out when they still have plenty of money but no delegate path,” said David Plouffe, who managed Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign and was a senior adviser in 2012. “It defies history they will do so, but it’s what will be required. This can’t be a cycle where just because you can keep going on, you do.”

Mr. Jeffries said it was crucial for the party to coalesce around whoever emerges, whenever it happens.

“We cannot afford the degree of recklessness and political immaturity among some who conclude that unless my candidate wins, I’m taking my ball and going home,” he warned, in an apparent reference to Mr. Sanders’s disgruntled supporters in 2016. “That is what delivered Donald Trump the first time.”

For the second consecutive quarter, Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, declared the incumbent to be building a financial “juggernaut” for the general election. His $102.7 million war chest will be supplemented by tens of millions of dollars more in the coffers of the Republican National Committee, which Mr. Trump functionally controls.

Together, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee raised roughly $125 million in the third quarter, and a Trump campaign official said on Thursday that their combined total for the fourth quarter would be even larger.

But Democrats were heartened that, collectively, their campaigns far surpassed the total of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign; the full field of 14 candidates will more than double the president’s take, signaling the intense desire in the party to win back the White House.

“What you’re seeing is a Democratic base so aware and so paying attention so early on,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, a Democratic strategist and a spokeswoman for MoveOn.org, a progressive activist group. “It’s just been part of the reaction to Trump. The last three years we’ve seen a very engaged Democratic base.”

The full picture of the financial race will not become clear until Jan. 31, when all the candidates must file their fund-raising reports with the Federal Election Commission. How much money the Democratic candidates actually have in the bank to spend in the closing stretch is an even more significant metric of their viability so close to votes being cast; notably, no Democrats have voluntarily disclosed that information.

Still, Mr. Sanders enters 2020 with a clear financial advantage over his primary rivals: His treasury allows him to buy additional television ads in the early states — he purchased new airtime in New Hampshire on Thursday — and to invest in staff in Super Tuesday states like California, where he had already dispatched 80 staff members as of December.

Mr. Sanders’s strongest month of the year was December, when he raised more than $18 million from more than 900,000 contributions, and he particularly benefited from a rush of donations in the final two days of the year. He can also keep raising cash online without spending days off the trail doing fund-raisers.

Mr. Biden had entered the fourth quarter with nearly $25 million less in cash on hand than Mr. Sanders. His campaign manager, Greg Schultz, wrote in a memo Thursday that the campaign would “always be playing from behind in the cash race” because Mr. Biden did not transfer funds to his presidential bid from other campaign accounts (as did two of his top rivals, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders).

Mr. Biden’s campaign said it had received a financial boost from Mr. Trump’s impeachment; the average amount of money it raised online per day, it said, more than doubled during the House’s impeachment inquiry compared with previous weeks. But despite his greater success online, Mr. Biden will continue to hold fund-raisers into January, with events in the coming days in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington.

Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign out-raised Mr. Biden’s for the third consecutive quarter, and it raised roughly $76 million in 2019, compared with about $60 million for Mr. Biden. What began as a bare-bones operation now counts more than 500 staff members nationwide, with 65 field offices in early voting states, according to a memo on Wednesday from Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl.

Among the top-tier candidates, only Ms. Warren has not yet released her fund-raising total. Her campaign emailed supporters in late December to say her pace was behind her third-quarter haul by millions of dollars and set a reduced goal of $20 million. On the trail in New Hampshire on Thursday, she brushed aside questions about her total, saying that unlike some rivals, she “didn’t spend one single minute selling access to my time to millionaires and billionaires.”

Mr. Yang, who rang in the New Year with a champagne toast in New Hampshire, was bullish on his $16.5 million haul, including more than $4 million in the last nine days of December from an online following known as the “Yang Gang.”

“We’re going to continue to surprise people,” Mr. Yang said in a high school gym in Concord, N.H., on Thursday, “and shock the world when the voting starts in February.”

Patrick Healy and Matt Stevens contributed reporting from Concord, N.H.

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