Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush smile while on the first tee during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider

On Thursday evening, the Pentagon confirmed that at the direction of President Donald Trump, U.S. forces killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in an air strike near Baghdad's airport, the most drastic step towards conflict with Iran of the 21st century.

Soleimani had been one of the most important and highly-regarded military figures in Iran for decades, playing a pivotal role in shaping Iranian foreign policy and the politics of the Middle East today.

The killing of the high-level commander Soleimani, first reported by Iranian state TV and later confirmed in a statement by the Pentagon, is the United State's most significant escalation of tensions against Iran yet and is likely to further inflame conflict in the region and provoke severe retaliation.

In the immediate aftermath of the strike on Suleimani, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that "harsh retaliation" would be waiting for the U.S., with another military official, Moshen Razae, vowing to "take vigorous revenge on America."

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