Iran vows revenge as top general killed in US strike
January 03 2020 05:58 PM
Demonstrators attend a protest against the assassination of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleima
Demonstrators attend a protest against the assassination of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who were killed in an air strike in Baghdad airport, in Tehran


*Pentagon to deploy more troops to Middle East

The United States plans to deploy at least 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East after Iran pledged to avenge the killing Friday of one of its top military commanders in Baghdad.
Qassem Soleimani — the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' foreign operations arm — was targeted in what a US official said was a drone strike on his convoy near Baghdad's international airport.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (L) and Qassem Soleimani

The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump had ordered Soleimani's killing after a pro-Iran mob laid siege to the American embassy in the Iraqi capital earlier this week, throwing rocks and setting fires.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly promised "severe revenge" for the death of the military mastermind — the biggest escalation yet in what some fear could end up being a proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei embracing a relative of killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, in the capital Tehran

As world leaders urged restraint from all sides, Iran's allies rallied behind the Islamic republic, and tens of thousands of angry protesters in Tehran torched US flags and chanted "Death to America."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the "world cannot afford" another Gulf war.
In Washington, a Pentagon official said 3,000 to 3,500 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division's Global Response Force, which already had sent hundreds of reinforcements earlier this week, will be deployed in the region.

Restraint urged

Qatar has warned of the continuation of the manifestations of escalation in Iraq, saying that could lead to unfortunate results.

In a statement Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged all parties to exercise restraint to spare Iraq, its people and the people of the region, the vicious cycle of violence and the consequences of direct and indirect armed escalation.

The ministry further called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards the region. 


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the rounds of morning news programmes to explain the strike, saying Soleimani had been planning an "imminent" attack that would have put "dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk."
Pompeo also engaged in a lightning round of telephone diplomacy, calling officials around the world to update them and lobby them for support.
Trump said Soleimani should have been killed "many years ago." He was due to deliver a speech later Friday in Miami.

US President Donald Trump pauses while making a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida

Early Friday, a precision drone strike struck two cars belonging to Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force with close ties to Iran, as they drove away from Baghdad International Airport.
Hours later, the Revolutionary Guards announced that Soleimani, 62, had been "martyred in an attack by America."
Five Guards were killed, along with five members of the Hashed, which confirmed its deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was among the dead.
Iran's Supreme National Security Council vowed that "these criminals will face severe vengeance in the right place and time."
The US embassy in Baghdad urged all American citizens to leave Iraq "immediately" and US nationals working at southern oil fields were being evacuated, Iraq's petrol ministry said.
Soleimani had served as Iran's pointman on Iraq, visiting the country in times of turmoil.
Khamenei swiftly named Quds Force number two Esmail Qaani to replace him.
Muhandis was the Hashed's deputy chief, but was widely recognised as the man calling the shots within the group.
Ceremonies to mourn both men will be held today, a day before Iraq's parliament is set to hold an emergency meeting.
A leading Hashed member, Hadi al-Ameri, urged lawmakers "to take a bold decision to oust foreign troops from Iraq, because their presence has become a threat for Iraqis."
Some 5,200 US troops are stationed across the country.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif slammed the US strike as "extremely dangerous and a foolish escalation," as Khamenei declared three days of mourning.
Iraqi President Barham Saleh warned of the security effects and repercussions of the killings of Soleimani and al-Muhandis on his country and the entire region.
He called for restraint, prevail over the voice of reason and wisdom, and protection of the supreme national interest.
In a statement Friday, Saleh stressed that in this exceptional circumstance, the Iraqis must adhere to their unity, and transcendent disputes to protect the supreme national interests, and the sovereignty and security of the country, to spare Iraq the scourge and tragedies of armed conflicts that have worn it over four decades which effects and wounds are still not healed.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said the strike was a "flagrant violation" of a security accord with the US, warning it would "spark a devastating war in Iraq."
But paramilitary figures in Iraq including US-blacklisted Qais al-Khazali and militiaman-turned-politician Moqtada Sadr called on their fighters to "be ready."
And in Lebanon, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned of "punishment for these criminal assassins."
Ties between the US and Iran have deteriorated markedly since Washington abandoned a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Last updated: January 04 2020 12:41 AM

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