Airstrike kills top Iran general Qassim Suleimani at Baghdad airport, Iraqi TV reports

His death, if confirmed, would certainly dramatically increase tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which were already heightened by the New Year’s attacks on the American Embassy.

This is the spark that could set the whole region on fire, given Suleimani is Iran’s most important, visible and powerful military leader.

Journalists are circulating graphic photos of the blast aftermath, seeking on the ground confirmation of Suleimani’s identity:

It appears Iranian officials have begun circulating condolences, acknowledging his death.

At the beginning of the last decade, when Gen. Suleimani began becoming a more visible and powerful face of influence in Iran and across the Middle East, one former CIA officer cited in a New Yorker biographical piece on him referred to the IRGC commander as the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.”

As leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ most elite Quds force, he directed all unconventional warfare and intelligence activities abroad. For that reason Washington and Tel Aviv had long considered him threat #1 within the Iranian military command structure. 

With war in the Middle East now virtually inevitable, here is the latest US naval deployment as of Jan 2:

It appears the ‘mystery’ strike which took out vehicles along the perimeter of Baghdad International Airport in the early morning hours of Friday was actually a US targeted assassination