President Trump has authorized the deployment of additional troops to the Middle East as tensions with Iran are sky-high following the targeted killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commanding officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force.
In addition to one paratrooper battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force (IRF), the Pentagon has deployed to the theater the unit’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. The 82nd paratroopers are to conduct presence patrols in the streets of Baghdad.
Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central (SPMAGTFCRC) have also been deployed to enhance the security of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The Crisis Response Force (CRF), A Company, 1st Battalion, of the 5th Special Forces Group is also on standby. Additionally, Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries have been put on high alert in Bahrain. The 173rd Airborne Brigade, the airborne response force of European Command (EURCOM), has also been recalled.
Several C-17 cargo aircraft have scrambled from the U.S. and headed toward the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations. In addition, four MC-130J Commando Solo IIs of the 67th Special Operations Squadron (67th SOS) took off from RAF Mildenhall heading toward Iraq.
The United Kingdom and Israel have also raised their alert status. Meanwhile, foreign oil companies have been evacuating their employees from the country.
Arguably the second most influential person when it came to Iran’s military and intelligence operations abroad, Soleimani had been the mastermind behind the deaths of hundreds of American servicemembers before, during and after the Iraqi insurgency.
Additional information has emerged with regard to the people killed in the drone strike. The number is currently at 10, and it includes senior members of the IRGC. Alongside Soleimani, there were four additional Iranians killed: General Hussein Jaafari Naya, Colonel Shahroud Muzaffari Niya, Major Hadi Tarmi and Captain Waheed Zamanian.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, announced that General Esmail Ghaani will succeed Soleimani at the helm of the Quds Force. General Ghaani became famous in Iran during the Iraq-Iran war. He previously served as the deputy commander of the Quds Force.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said a statement that Soleimani “was the master of the martyrs from the axis of resistance and a brave and enterprising role model for all resistance fighters and mujahideen in our region. We will complete his path and work night and day to achieve his goals, and we will raise his banner [on] all battlefields and fronts… It will be the responsibility, the truth, and the action of all the resistance fighters and mujahideen throughout the world.”
Iran has used Hezbollah numerous times in the past as a proxy against American and other Western targets. And the likelihood that it will do again is high, considering that a direct and overt Iranian response would escalate the situation even further.