The Starting 5: U.S. Kills Top Iranian General, Golden Globes, Wild Card Weekend, Australian Fires and Mike Pompeo Cancels Ukraine Trip

Sign up to get The Starting 5 dropped into your inbox first thing every morning

President Donald Trump ordered a U.S. drone strike that killed Iran's most powerful general, sparking fears of retaliation from Tehran. The operation, which Trump approved Thursday morning, escalated tensions that had been simmering in Iraq during a week of unrest and bloodshed, and raised the risk of war with Iran.

Here's what else you need to know today:

Who was Qassem Soleimani?

The assassination of Qassem Soleimani has sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East. The commander of Iran's powerful and secretive Quds Force, Soleimani was one of the most influential players in the Iranian regime, directing the foreign military and covert operations of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Like many of his colleagues, Soleimani often used tough rhetoric to attack Trump and threaten consequences for the president's tough line.

Qassem Soleimani
Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is pictured in 2017. MEHDI GHASEMI/Getty Images

No Trip for You

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in Ukraine today, meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad mean Pompeo will be staying home to monitor the situation, the State Department said. It's a shame, really. The House Democrats voted to impeach President Donald Trump last month over his dealings with Ukraine, and it would have been one for the record books to get Zelenskiy's latest take on the matter, now that it's escalated this far.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a press conference after a summit on Ukraine at the Élysée Palace in Paris on December 9, 2019. CHARLES PLATIAU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

Red-Hot Disaster

Australia has been devastated by fires since September, and conditions are only set to worsen this weekend. Saturday will see high temperatures and high winds combine to create "significant fire movement," and entire regions have been designated "leave zones." Since September, 18 people have died, more than 12 million acres have been burned, and an estimated 480 million animals have been affected.

Australian fire horse
This picture taken on December 31, 2019, shows a horse trying to move away from nearby bushfires at a residential property near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales. SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

Wildest Dreams

Super Bowl LIV in Miami is less than a month away, and so it's time for the Wild Card Weekend, ahead of next week's Divisional Round. On Saturday, tune in to watch (all times EST) the Buffalo Bills vs. the Houston Texans at 4:35 p.m. on ABC/ESPN, followed by the Tennessee Titans vs. the New England Patriots on CBS at 8:15 p.m. On Sunday, it's the Minnesota Vikings vs. the New Orleans Saints at 1:05 p.m. on Fox and the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:40 p.m. on NBC.

New Orleans Saints
Latavius Murray, No. 28, of the New Orleans Saints during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images/Getty

Golden Night

It's a tough gig, but Ricky Gervais is returning for a record fifth time to host the Golden Globe Awards this Sunday. The evening marks the beginning of the 2020 awards season, and Gervais, who has promised this year will be his last, is unlikely to hold back. But make sure to also have some tissues close by, as Tom Hanks, who recently starred as Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, will be honored with the iconic Cecil B. DeMille Award. The 77th Golden Globes Awards will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. EST.

2019 Golden Globes
Hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh onstage during the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, California. Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images/Getty