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Iran court orders US to pay $49 billion over Soleimani assassination

Qasem Soleimani led Iran’s elite Quds Force until he was assassinated by the United States in Baghdad in 2020 in response to attacks on US forces in Iraq.
TOPSHOT - Protesters hold pictures of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, during a demonstration outside the US consulate in Istanbul, on January 5, 2020, two days after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike. - A US drone strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad's international airport on January 3, dramatically heightening regional tensions and prompting arch enemy Tehran to vow "revenge". (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo by YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty

An Iranian court ordered the US government and others on Wednesday to pay billions of dollars in damages over the killing of commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani, demonstrating how his death continues to enrage Iranian leadership.

The Tehran Justice Department’s 55th Branch of the Legal Court of International Relations found 42 US plaintiffs, including US government departments and military units, guilty and liable to pay $49.77 billion in damages related to Soleimani’s death. The payments are to be used to compensate those who suffered damages in relation to his killing, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The list of those ordered to pay damages includes former US President Donald Trump, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Iranian judiciary.

Soleimani led the Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and played a key role in expanding Iran’s footprint across the region via armed proxies. He was assassinated by the United States via a drone strike in Baghdad in January of 2020 following attacks on US forces in Iraq.

The US government did not comment on the ruling. Washington is extremely unlikely to pay given the significant tensions and lack of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Why it matters: The ruling is another signal from Iran that it continues to prioritize retribution, legally and otherwise, over Soleimani's killing. Iran launched a major missile attack against US forces in Iraq days after the assassination. The anniversary of Soleimani's death is commemorated yearly, including by Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

The drone strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iran-backed leader in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, and damaged relations between Baghdad and Washington. An Iraqi judge issued an arrest warrant for Trump in 2021 over the strike.

Know more: US-Iran tensions have risen steadily since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. Current US President Joe Biden’s efforts to reenter the deal have not yielded significant results, and relations soured further over Iran’s violent crackdown against protesters starting last year.

Tensions between the United States and Iran are currently at a high point due to Iran-backed militia strikes against US forces in Iraq and Syria in relation to the Gaza war.