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Iran's top general Soleimani killed in US strike

What you need to know

  • Iran's military leader killed: Qasem Soleimani, top general and one of the most powerful men in Iran, was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad airport on Friday. His deputy was also killed.
  • Trump ordered the strike: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the airstrikes disrupted an "imminent attack" in the region that put American lives at risk.
  • US deploying troops: The US is sending thousands of additional troops to the Middle East in response, according to a US defense official.
4:26 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Our live coverage of the Iraq air strike has moved here.
2:58 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

The US will deploy thousands more troops to the Middle East

The US will send thousands of additional troops to the Middle East after President Donald Trump ordered the airstrike that killed one of Iran's most powerful men.

After hundreds of protesters targeted the US Embassy compound in Baghdad earlier this week, the US sent in 750 troops from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division and said additional deployments were possible.
The new deployment will encompass the rest of the brigade -- about 3,000 soldiers.

Trump's administration has insisted that the strike was ordered to thwart an imminent threat from Iran -- not to start a war. But Democrats say the strike will increase threats to US interests from across the Middle East.

"Today the administration announced we're sending 3,000 more troops to the region," said Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

"So clearly the administration recognizes that this action has actually dramatically increased the risks in the Middle East, increased the risks of an attack from Iran and it should be no surprise to anybody who has followed these issues that Iran does mean what it says when it says this is essentially tantamount to an act of war."
Watch more here:

2:42 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Crowds line Baghdad streets for funeral procession

Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people are on the streets of Baghdad for a funeral procession mourning the military leaders killed by a US airstrike yesterday.

In some places, people have laid out red carpets as they await the arrival of the remains. Two of the region's most powerful military officials were killed -- Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and top Iran general Qasem Soleimani. Their caskets have been covered with black, and decorated with flowers.

CNN correspondent Jomana Karadsheh said the atmosphere is highly emotional, with people crying and some chanting angrily.

1:27 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Funeral procession in Iraq for officials killed in strike

Crowds of mourners in Baghdad. Al Iraqiya TV

It's early morning in Baghdad, and people are gathering to mourn the military officials killed in a US airstrike at the airport yesterday.

The strike killed the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as Iran general Qasem Soleimani.

According to the state TV commentator, a funeral procession will begin at 10 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) at the Al-Kaduhm shrine in Baghdad, with dignitaries and government officials in attendance.

There's still over an hour to go, but the streets are already filled with people dressed in black. Yesterday after the strike, Iraqi crowds also prayed in mosques, some holding posters of the officials' faces.

Soleimani's body will arrive in Iran for burial later today, Iran state media reported.

12:42 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Analysis: Baghdad is once again an "arena" for the US-Iran conflict

In Baghdad, the atmosphere is one of fear and dread.

There are some who celebrated Qasem Soleimani's death -- but "overall, the feeling here (is that) people are terrified," said CNN correspondent Jomana Karadsheh, who is in the Iraqi capital.

"They are really concerned about where this is all headed, what happens next. They are very concerned about their country's future."

There is also a prevailing anger that Iraq has, once again, been turned into "an arena for international and regional powers to be settling scores," she added.

The Iraq government is under mounting pressure now to take action, but they are caught between two allies -- Iran and the US.

"So many of the people here, especially when it comes to these powerful Iranian-backed Shia militias, they want to see this government standing up to the United States and also they want them to reassess Iraq's relationship with the US," Karadsheh said.

Watch her analysis here:

12:28 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Some Democrats are questioning how imminent the threat was from Iran

The Trump administration has repeatedly said the airstrike was done to prevent a potentially deadly attack from Iran -- but after a briefing on Friday, some Congressional Democrats are questioning just how imminent the threat was.

One Democratic source who was present for the briefing said it was “absolutely unconvincing."

There was "a credible threat," the source said, but the briefing didn't describe anything that was dramatically different than other similar threats from regional militia, including vehicle-mounted rockets like those in May and before.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall said Friday: "My staff was briefed by a number of people representing a variety of agencies in the United State Government and they came away with no feeling that there was evidence of an imminent attack.”
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Friday: "Nothing that came out of the briefing changed my view that this was an unnecessary escalation of the situation in Iraq and Iran. ... I have no additional information to support the administration’s claim that this was an imminent attack on Americans.”
Watch Van Hollen's comments on CNN:

11:45 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

US Soccer suspends training camp in Qatar

US Soccer announced on Friday that it was postponing a January training camp for the men's national team that was originally scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar, "due to the developing situation in the region."

“In the meantime, we are working on alternative arrangements in preparation for the match against Costa Rica on February 1 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.," US Soccer said in a statement.
"We are working with the Qatar Football Association to find an opportunity in the near future for our team to experience Qatar’s world-class facilities and hospitality.”

Qatar is set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The tournament is normally held during the summer months, but will instead be held in the Qatari winter due to concerns over intense summer temperatures in the Gulf state.

10:37 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Pompeo says the US airstrike "saved lives in Europe"

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Palm Beach, Florida on December 29, 2019. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated late Friday that an attack “that could have killed hundreds or thousands of Americans” was imminent if Qasem Soleimani was not targeted in the deadly Baghdad airport strike.

Speaking on "The Sean Hannity Show," he also said the strike had potentially saved European lives -- and America's European allies didn’t seem to understand what they were trying to accomplish.

“I spent the last day and a half, two days, talking to partners in the region, sharing with them what we were doing, why we were doing it, seeking their assistance," he said, adding that some had been "fantastic."

"And then talking to our partners in other places that haven’t been quite as good; frankly, the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be. The Brits, the French, the Germans all need to understand that what we did, what the Americans did, saved lives in Europe as well," he said.
10:32 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Analysis: Iran could retaliate with cyber-attacks on US

A computer screen filled with code at a 2014 hackathon in Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Iran's threat to retaliate against the US for killing Qasem Soleimani could take the form of cyber-attacks aimed at hurting the American economy.

Since 2009, Iran’s cyber capabilities have “grown in sophistication and scope,” according to an October report by the United States Institute of Peace -- and Iran has been demonstrating its ability to wreak havoc on US economic activity.
Some recent instances:
  • In October, Microsoft said hackers linked to the Iranian government attempted an unsuccessful attack on an unnamed 2020 US presidential campaign, as well as current and former US government officials.
  • In 2018, the US Justice Department indicted two Iranian men for a hacking and malware scheme that targeted hospitals and municipal offices nationwide -- but didn't allege any connections to the Iranian government.
  • In 2014, the Iranian government cyber-attacked the Sands casino company and stole customer data, according to the then-US Director of National Intelligence.
Experts are worried: The Iranians’ ability to execute cyber-attacks is sophisticated, said one corporate security expert, who spoke on background due to the sensitive nature of her work. She is most concerned about Iran hitting crucial infrastructure like heath care systems and air traffic control systems.
“They can really disrupt how we operate in our daily lives. Financial services, transportation and technology companies would be targets,” she said.