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FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2016 file photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran. According to the Pentagon, Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of over 600 U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian military general who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on Thursday, was responsible for the deaths of over 600 U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” the Pentagon said. “He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months — including the attack on December 27th — culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.”

The Department of Defense added that the strike against Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force, the extraterritorial wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last spring that the State Department was designating the IRGC a "foreign terrorist organization," following months of speculation that the administration was considering blacklisting the most powerful branch of the country's armed forces. Though the State Department has long labeled the Iranian regime the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it had never before classified an element of a foreign government as a terrorist group, and the IRGC joined a list including al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram.

“With this designation we are sending a clear signal to the Iranian regime — including Qasem Soleimani and his band of thugs — that we are standing up to the regime’s outlaw behavior," Pompeo said. “The blood of the 603 American soldiers … is on his hands and the hands of the IRGC more broadly."

Last year, the State Department revealed that Iran is responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American service members during the war in Iraq, higher than the previous estimate of 500.

Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told the Washington Examiner the exact figure is “at least 603.” Robertson said that “the casualties were the result of explosively formed penetrators, other improvised explosive devices, improvised rocket-assisted munitions, rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms, sniper, and other attacks in Iraq.”

The dramatic and violent storming of the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this week followed the Iraqi government’s condemnation of U.S. airstrikes targeting Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia that is part of the broader pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella guided by Soleimani and run by his adviser Abu Mahdi al Muhandis. The United States blamed Kataib Hezbollah for attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq, including one resulting in the death of a U.S. contractor. Muhandis’s men showed up in droves on Tuesday, along with members of other Iranian-aligned groups.

Iran increased its influence and footing in Iraq following the Obama administration’s military withdrawal from the country and the subsequent invasion by the Islamic State, with Iran backing Shiite militias influenced and often directed by Soleimani to fill the power void, and Iran received a much-needed influx of billions in cash as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. has since left.

Senior administration officials said that the Trump administration believed Soleimani was the true Iranian foreign minister, not Javad Zarif.

"The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign," Trump said.

The Revolutionary Guard, along with its specialized Quds Force, supports terrorists around the world, carries out cyberattacks and assassinations, funds illicit missile development, and wields huge influence both inside the country and around the region. It also plays an integral role in funding, training, and guiding Iran’s global proxies — including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen — and in propping up Bashar Assad in Syria.

“This designation should surprise no one. For 40 years, the IRGC has engaged in terrorism," Pompeo said. "It pretends to be a regular military organization, but none of us should be fooled."

Pompeo pointed to a number of examples of Iran’s involvement in terrorist attacks against America, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 U.S. service members, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel. In 2011, the Quds Force also plotted to bomb a restaurant in Washington, D.C., and kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

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