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January 3, 2020

Conflict Study Guide: General Qassem Soleimani Killed by US Strike

 #3 Top News Lesson of 2020 Iran's top General and second in power, Qassem Soleimani, was killed by US drone strike. What does this mean for conflict in the Middle East?


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Qassem Soleimani: What's Next for A Region in Turmoil?

Trigger Warning: This resource contains sensitive content. Please review thoroughly to determine if this is right for your individual classroom.

Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” after a U.S. airstrike Thursday killed General Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military commanders. The Defense Department said it killed Soleimani because he was actively planning attacks on U.S. diplomats and service members. According to the Trump administration, Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed because he was actively planning attacks on U.S. diplomats and service members. The administration has produced few details about Iran being an “imminent” threat. Soleimani has been blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back decades. Iran has vowed to retaliate, raising fears of an all-out war. Watch the video and answer the questions. If time allows, read U.S. kills Iran’s most powerful general in Baghdad airstrike or Iran general’s killing triggers global alarm.

Earlier last week, supporters of the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah staged a 24-hour sit-in, scaled the U.S. embassy walls in Baghdad, Iraq and broke the reception area’s windows. They demanded the U.S. close the embassy and withdraw its more than 5,000 troops from Iraq.

Protestors were responding to U.S. airstrikes on Dec. 29th against members of the same militia. The U.S. blames the group for killing an American military contractor and attacking U.S. bases in Iraq 11 times in the last two months.

On Saturday, hundreds of U.S. troops were deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as reinforcements in the Middle East amid rising tensions following the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general.

Demonstrators in dozens of cities around the U.S. gathered Saturday to protest the Trump administration’s killing of an Iranian general and decision to send thousands of additional soldiers to the Middle East.

On Sunday, Iran said Sunday it would no longer follow any of the limits of the 2015 nuclear deal with other countries after Soleimani’s death. In May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement. Iran’s announcement meant it will no longer abide by the deal’s key provisions that blocked it from gathering enough material to build a nuclear weapon.

Qassem Soleimani: The Trump Administration Reaction

Trump tweeted Saturday that if Iran attacks any American assets in response to Soleimani’s death, the U.S. has 52 targets across the Islamic Republic that “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.” Some are “important to Iran & Iranian culture,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo deflected questions whether targeting cultural sites violates international law on Sunday morning news shows. On CBS last week, Pompeo blamed the Iranian government for the upswell in violence, calling it “Iranian-backed terrorism that took place that threatened American interests.”

Qassem Soleimani: Iran's Reaction

Iran has vowed swift retaliation. “I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take a revenge that will change their daylight into to a nighttime darkness,” said the cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

On Monday, Tehran’s streets were packed with thousands of mourners following the funeral of Soleimani. Mourners pointed out that Soleimani helped defeat ISIS and others shouted “Down with the USA” and “Death to the USA.”

Members of Hezbollah (Iranian-backed armed Islamist group based in Lebanon) and their supporters gathered on Sunday in Beirut, Lebanon, to mourn the death of Suleimani.

Qassem Soleimani: Discussion Questions

  1. Focus question: What would a potential war with Iran mean?
  2. Who was General Qassem Soleimani? (if time allows, watch video here)
  3. What is the Trump administration’s justification for killing Soleimani?
  4. What has the reaction been in Iran and in the Middle East on Soleimani’s death?
  5. Congress didn’t vote on approving the attack on Soleimani. What is Congress’ role in approving such attacks?
  6. What is the relationship between Iran and the United States?
  7. How do you think the U.S. should proceed at this point in time?
  8. The thought of war can be very frightening. If you are upset or worried, who are a couple of people you can share your feelings with?
  9. Media literacy: Be sure to check out a few other news websites (i.e. Fox, CNN, Young Turks, Washington Post, Al Jazeera) in order to get various perspectives on the killing of General Soleimani. What similarities or differences do you see in how these news outlets report the situation in Iraq and potential conflict with Iran? Why is it important to check reports from a few different news organizations?
Wreckage of drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani
Wreckage following the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani

Qassem Soleimani: Extension Activities

If time allows, read the article that best suits your class:

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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