The leader of Iran’s Ghods force and IRGC commander, Ghassem Soleimani was killed today by an American strike on a vehicle in Iraq near the Baghdad International Airport several hours ago.

Soleimani, who reported to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is a notorious Iranian general who is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, and who has been active in mobilizing Shiite militias in Iraq following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 throughout the war and subsequent chaos in that country. He has been accused of being responsible for the deaths of American soldiers during the war in Iraq after the deposition of Saddam Hussein. He was also active in helping Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria stay in power by mobilizing forces to suppress the opposition the Syrian president. Soleimani was also involved in beating back ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

While it is not news that the U.S. has had Soleimani in its cross-hairs for years, neither of the previous two American presidents, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama decided to pull the trigger, likely knowing that it could open up a Pandora’s box that might lead to a war with Iran that could make the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq look like cakewalks.

CNN has reported that the Pentagon stated that the strike against Soleimani was a direct order from U.S. President Donald Trump.

This begets the question, why now? Why at this moment. There have been protests in Iraq at the U.S. embassy in recent days apparently directed by the Iranian-aligned Iraqi Shiite militias organized under the PMU, which were in reaction to a U.S. strike against the PMU that killed some members of that militia. While it may well be that this escalation between the U.S. and Iran in Iraq ultimately led to the decision by Donald Trump to kill Soleimani, could the trigger for that decision actually have been a tweet spat between the U.S. President and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei?

Here is a back and forth between the two on Twitter:

U.S President Donald Trump:

Ayatollah Khamenei

It’s rare for Khamenei to address a U.S. president directly. This is actually quite a stunning exchange.

That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad & we will respond to Iran.
1st: You can’t do anything.
2nd: If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you.

Could Khamenei saying “You can’t do anything” to Trump have been the trigger that caused Trump to order the killing of Ghassem Soleimani–a massive escalation that takes Iran-U.S. relations into terrifying uncharted territory?

Soleimani was very close to Khamenei. Khamenei is staunchly anti-American. This one act has likely derailed any possible diplomacy between Iran and the U.S. for years to come–at least for as long as Khamenei remains in power in Iran. It is certain to lead to some forms of retaliations and escaltions which could lead to an all out war.

We will likely never know the answer to if Khamenei’s tweet was what goaded Trump into this decision to kill Soleimani, but this tweet from Trump, which came after word got out that Soleimani was killed, provides us with a clue:

This is reckless chest-thumping. Surely an assassination like this should not be bragged about. Trump is literally goading a reaction from Khamenei and the proxies of the Iranian regime. This is going to put American lives in the region at risk. It will put the lives of innocent Iranians and Iraqis at risk should wars result. It will put the lives of Iranian moderates and dissidents at risk inside of Iran. It will help Iran’s hardliners consolidate their power, and give them an excuse to clamp down even harder on any internal dissent. It may lead to extraterrorial assassinations of dissidents and of people the regime considers its enemies.

All potentially to satiate the ego of the American president.

It’s also quite convenient that this comes as Trump faces impeachment at home.

And then there is this:

Makes one wonder. Whatever the case may be, this is a very serious escalation that has the potential of spiralling out of control in a very bad way. Iran may retaliate in some way immediately, or maybe not. But it will do something. Khamenei won’t let this one pass. And with diplomacy all but off of the table now, during an election year in the U.S. with an embattled American president looking for distractions from his domestic woes, 2020 is starting off in perilous waters.

Update: 2020-01-03 12:30AM PT

Can’t stress the significance of this tweet that was just posted to the official account of Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, enough:

Rouhani, like Khamenei, is vowing revenge. Diplomacy between Iran and the U.S. is now dead for the foreseeable future and war in some form far more likely.