Iraq is now the location of a proxy battle between Iran and America — and its civilians expect they will likely pay the price.
In the early hours of Friday morning, Qassem al Soleimani — Iran's most powerful general and the head of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — was assassinated by a U.S. drone as he left Baghdad International Airport.
Thousands of mourners gathered on Saturday to take part in his funeral procession through Baghdad.
After the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Qassem al Soleimani was the second most powerful man in Iran. Over the past forty years, he has played a role in conflicts across the region. He's also accused of controlling militia claimed to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
Iraq's Shia militia forces known as the Popular Mobilization Units or PMU were funded and trained by his Revolutionary Guards. During the fight against ISIS, elements of the PMU were accused of targeting and killing innocent Sunni Iraqis.
His death is the most significant and serious escalation in tensions between Iran and the U.S. after months of increasing aggression between the two powers.
Khamenei has vowed to take “severe revenge” for Soleimani's death — it's likely that Iraq will be a key location for future retaliation. And where there is fighting, there is collateral damage in the form of civilian suffering.