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This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister's Press Office shows a burning vehicle at Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike early today. Photo via AP

President Trump, after warning three days ago that Iran would pay "a very BIG PRICE," authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran's top general and second most powerful official, Qasem Soleimani.

Why it matters: Soleimani had cost hundreds of American lives and was among the Middle East's most feared powers. But Iran seems certain to respond, potentially further destabilizing the world's most volatile region.

  • "In killing General Soleimani," the N.Y. Times reports, "Trump took an action that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected, fearing it would lead to war between the United States and Iran."
  • From the Pentagon's statement: "At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization."

Behind the scenes: A source in close contact with Trump administration senior national security officials tells Axios that one scenario they are especially concerned about — and have been prepared for — is Iran launching cyberattacks.

  • That's the most likely way that Iran could retaliate stateside.

The big picture: The president who wanted to bring home the troops is now engaged in the most intense conflict with Iran in recent history.

  • So much has changed — and so fast.
  • A few months ago, Trump was musing about bringing U.S. troops home from the Middle East, and to let others fight it out in the sand.
  • Now, he’s adding forces, and they’re necessarily on a war footing.

Between the lines: Trump now has to prepare for an extreme backlash from Iran — and likely intensified attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East, and anywhere else within Iran’s planning reach.

It also means possible retaliation against U.S. allies, especially Israel, writes Axios contributor Barak Ravid.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Greece to return to Israel to monitor the situation.
  • It is still unclear if the U.S. gave Israel any heads up before the strike on Soleimani.
  • Israeli officials tell Ravid that Israel doesn’t know if and how Iran is going to retaliate — but, right now, the decision is to keep a low profile and not get involved in the ongoing tensions in Iraq.

Risk of world war ... CFR President Richard Haass tweets: "Make no mistake: any war with Iran will not look like the 1990 Gulf war or the 2003 Iraq wars."

  • "It will be fought throughout the region w a wide range of tools vs a wide range of civilian, economic, & military targets. The region (and possibly the world) will be the battlefield."

The bottom line: Modern wars are fought mostly with the most expensive, most difficult to recruit, train and retain: special forces. 

Go deeper: Trump's twin war threats

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Go deeper

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.