The consequences of the American killing of a top Iranian general rippled across the Middle East and beyond on Sunday, with Iran all but abandoning a landmark nuclear agreement and Iraqi lawmakers voting to expel American forces from their country. Steeling for retaliation from Iran, an American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria suspended the campaign it has waged against the Islamic State for years, as hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the street to mourn the general, Qassim Suleimani.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites "very hard" if Iran attacks Americans or U.S. assets after a drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader, as tens of thousands of people marched in Iraq to mourn their deaths. Showing no signs of seeking to ease tensions raised by the strike he ordered that killed Soleimani and Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport on Friday, Trump issued a threat to Iran on Twitter. The strike has raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.
An Iranian general who replaced the leader killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad vowed Sunday to take revenge as Tehran abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying. Esmail Ghaani's threat comes as the blowback over the U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani mounted Sunday with Iraq's parliament calling for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.
UANI IN THE NEWS
President Trump's order to take out Qasem Soleimani was morally, constitutionally and strategically correct. It deserves more bipartisan support than the begrudging or negative reactions it has received thus far from my fellow Democrats. The president's decision was bold and unconventional. It's understandable that the political class should have questions about it. But it isn't understandable that all the questions are being raised by Democrats and all the praise is coming from Republicans. That divided response suggests the partisanship that has infected and disabled so much of U.S. domestic policy now also determines our elected leaders' responses to major foreign-policy events and national-security issues, even the killing of a man responsible for murdering hundreds of Americans and planning to kill thousands more.
The U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian commander at Baghdad's airport in Iraq has created an earthquake that will have "reverberations around the globe," according to Jason Brodsky, policy director of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran. "Qassem Soleimani was not just a symbol. He also had substantive power and authority in the Islamic Republic," he said. Brodsky said in an interview with VOA Persian that Soleimani had achieved rock-star status in the region, developing a "cultlike following."
What will the Middle East look like following the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC-Qods Force? In the short term, there is no doubt that Iran will retaliate, tensions will rise, and there will be violence across the region. In the long term, the United States has changed the rules of the game, and now without Soleimani's malevolent leadership, the Middle East will be a better place. After a quick look at coverage of the event in the American media, this conclusion is not apparent.
The debate over the Iran deal was among the most acrimonious of the Obama years. Throughout 2015, congressional Republicans stridently opposed it. Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia worked to marshal opposition. Think tanks churned out alarmist reports about the JCPOA. Tens of millions of dollars were spent by outside groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and United Against Nuclear Iran urging Congress to kill the deal. To prevent that legislation from passing, we worked frenetically to muster 41 Democratic Senate votes to uphold a filibuster.
...In 2013, a former CIA officer named John Maguire told The New Yorker magazine that Soleimani was "the single most powerful operative in the Middle East." "He is the individual most responsible for the destabilization and inflammation of sectarian tensions that Iran has sown throughout the Middle East," said Jordan Steckler, a research analyst with United Against Nuclear Iran, prior to Soleimani's death. "Soleimani is begrudgingly considered by his adversaries to be a brilliant strategist." Steckler added: "Despite being outmanned, outgunned and outspent by its adversaries, Soleimani has employed tactics including terrorist attacks, covert operations and the outsourcing of fighting to foreign militias to undermine the sovereignty of neighboring states and expand Iran's military and diplomatic influence."
...Speaking out against the Iranian general has been a very personal mission for retired Staff Sergeant Robert Bartlett. In 2005, he was serving in Iraq when an Iranian made bomb left him severely injured, burned and blind in one eye. Since then, Sergeant Bartlett has spoken out against the Iran nuclear deal and how it sanctions relief provided Soleimani with funding and cover to carry out terrorism. Sergeant Bartlett joins me now. He's an Army veteran and adviser to United Against A Nuclear Iran. Sergeant, good to see you again tonight. Thank you very much for being here.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Iran said Sunday that it is suspending its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal it had struck with world powers and will abandon the accord's "final restrictions" on uranium enrichment and other activities unless U.S. sanctions are lifted. The government announced the move in a statement carried by state news agencies. "Iran's nuclear program will now be based solely on its technical needs," the statement said. The move includes breaching the deal's caps on uranium production and enrichment capacity, as well as nuclear research and development.
The nuclear deal painstakingly negotiated by the international community with Iran has become the first victim of the crisis provoked by the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in a US drone attack. But while declaring its independence from the JCPOA, Iran has not articulated any intention to race towards weapons-grade uranium. After a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran announced Sunday that it would no longer limit itself to the restrictions contained in the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Oil prices rose a further 2% on Monday, pushing Brent above $70 a barrel, as rhetoric from the United States, Iran and Iraq fanned tensions in the Middle East after a U.S. air strike which killed a top Iranian military commander. Brent crude futures LCOc1 soared to a high of $70.74 a barrel and was at $69.74 at 0940 GMT, up $1.14, or 1.66%, from Friday's settlement. U.S. West Texas Intermediate CLc1 crude was at $63.92 a barrel, up 87 cents, or 1.38%, after touching $64.72, the highest since April.
Tensions in the Middle East after the killing of a top Iranian general by the United States erased new year gains for a gauge of world shares on Monday as investors pushed safe-haven gold to a seven-year high, and oil jumped to its highest since September. The United States detected a heightened state of alert by Iran's missile forces, as President Donald Trump warned the U.S. would strike back, "perhaps in a disproportionate manner", if Iran attacked any American person or target.
Events in 2019 served as a reminder for just how vulnerable the world's oil supply is, and Iran was usually blamed as the culprit for attacks on ships, pipelines and processing plants in the Middle East. But the knock-on effects blew over quickly in a world that appeared oblivious to the geopolitics of oil. Now in the wake of the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general who led the Revolutionary Guards' Quds force, the big question hanging over the market is whether Iran will target oil in its response.
The United States has detected a heightened state of alert by Iran's missile forces across the country, a U.S. official told Reuters on Sunday, adding it was unclear whether the higher readiness level was defensive in nature or not. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide further details or say whether the Iranian missiles were taking aim at any specific targets, amid threats by Tehran of retaliation over a U.S. drone strike last week that killed a top Iranian general.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
The Trump administration's use of a drone strike to kill Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani have led to fears the military action could lead to full-scale war between Iran and the United States. On Saturday, anti-war protesters assembled across the US and around the world to protest the administration's action. The rallies were organized by the Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition. On its website, the organization listed scheduled protests in dozens of US cities.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
In the chaotic days leading to the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran's most powerful commander, top American military officials put the option of killing him - which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq - on the menu they presented to President Trump. They didn't think he would take it. In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.
A few days before a U.S. drone killed Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the Iranian navy flew to inspect the first-ever joint naval exercises that the Islamic Republic conducted with the U.S.'s global rivals: Russia and China. "Today, the era of American free action in the region is over, and they must leave the region," Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi declared as a Chinese guided-missile destroyer, a Russian frigate and 12 other vessels jointly patrolled the Arabian Sea. Instead of leaving, President Trump now is sending thousands more American troops to the Middle East to confront Iran.
Escalating steps by Tehran and Washington are raising the pressure on European leaders to pick sides in a conflict they have been seeking to defuse for months. On Sunday, Iran said it would abandon limits placed on its nuclear-enrichment under a 2015 nuclear deal struck with European powers and the U.S., days after a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian military commander sent tensions soaring. European politicians have been critical both of the Trump administration's economic pressure on Iran and of Tehran's interference in its neighborhood.
President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that Iranian cultural sites were fair game for the U.S. military, dismissing concerns within his own administration that doing so could constitute a war crime under international law. He also warned Iraq that he would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian official. Trump's comments came amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds force.
Pope Francis called on Sunday for dialogue and restraint two days after the killing of a top Iranian military commander by the United States. Speaking at the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican, the pope did not mention Iran by name but spoke of a terrible air of tension that could now be felt in many parts of the world. "I call on all sides to keep the flame of dialogue and self-restraint alight and ward off the shadow of hostility," he said.
The United States lacks the courage for military confrontation with Iran, the Islamic Republic's army chief said on Sunday, according to state TV. "In a potential conflict in the future, which I don't think they (Americans) have the courage to carry out, there it will become clear where the numbers five and two will belong," Iran's Army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said in response to a threat by U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday said he had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran following the U.S. air strike that killed Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani. Netanyahu "and I just spoke and underscored the importance of countering Iran's malign influence and threats to the region," Pompeo said on Twitter, adding that he was "always grateful for Israel's steadfast support in defeating terrorism."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death of an Iranian general in a U.S. drone strike has raised tensions in the Middle East and he urged restraint between Washington and Tehran. "Tensions between the U.S. and Iran should be controlled and defused," Erdogan told CNNTurk television in an interview on Sunday. "The U.S.'s targeting of Soleimani has increased tensions in the region. I think killing a senior commander of a country won't remain unanswered."
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
The American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria halted its years long mission of attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in both countries Sunday as United States troops braced for retaliation from Iran after a strike that killed a powerful Iranian commander, military officials said. In a statement, the American command said that after repeated attacks on Iraqi and American bases in past weeks, one of which killed an American contractor on Dec. 27, "we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review."
In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi'ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad. The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters.
A new Iranian general has stepped out of the shadows to lead the country's expeditionary Quds Force, becoming responsible for Tehran's proxies across the Mideast as the Islamic Republic threatens the U.S. with "harsh revenge" for killing its previous head, Qassem Soleimani. The Quds Force is part of the 125,000-strong Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization that answers only to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard oversees Iran's ballistic missile program, has its naval forces shadow the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf and includes an all-volunteer Basij force.
A senior military official in Iran threatened an attack on some 35 "American targets," including "destroyers and warships" near the Persian Gulf Friday night, promising to seek revenge for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, according to a report. The latest threat against the U.S. came late Friday night from senior Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a day after top Iranian military general Soleimani was wiped out by an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Thousands of people marched through Iraq's capital as part of a funeral procession for Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, many chanting that "vengeance is coming" for the death of the powerful Iranian military leader killed in a U.S. airstrike on the country's soil. President Trump warned hours later that the U.S. is prepared to strike dozens of Iranian sites, saying on Twitter it would "HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD" if Tehran targets Americans or U.S. assets. The U.S. airstrike on Baghdad's main airport killed Gen. Soleimani along with Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the leader of a major Iraqi paramilitary group that is backed by Iran.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians thronged Tehran's streets on Monday for the funeral of military commander Qassem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone strike last week, and his daughter said his death would bring a "dark day" for the United States. "Crazy Trump, don't think that everything is over with my father's martyrdom," Zeinab Soleimani said in an address broadcast on state television. U.S. President Donald Trump had ordered Friday's attack that killed the general, the architect of Iran's drive to extend its influence across the region. Iran has promised to avenge his death.
Iranians young and old have thronged the streets across Iran, waving national flags and breaking into mass chants of "I am Soleimani" as they mourn the country's top military commander, Qassem Soleimani. But while many Iranians rally to show grief over Soleimani, regarded as the country's second most powerful figure after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, others worry his death might push the country to war with a superpower.
CONGRESS & IRAN
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will introduce and vote on a war powers resolution this week to limit U.S. President Donald Trump's military actions regarding Iran. "This resolution is similar to the resolution introduced by Senator Tim Kaine in the Senate," Pelosi said in a statement late on Sunday. "It reasserts Congress's long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration's military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Iran "the cancer of the Middle East," while saying he was glad one of the country's top military leaders Gen. Qassem Soleimani was dead. Graham defended President Trump's decision to attack and kill Soleimani on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" Sunday, calling Soleimani an "evil man" and "terrorist leader" with "American blood on his hands." "I can assure the American people that he died not because of the color of his skin or because of his ethnic origins, he died because of the content of his character," he said.
CHINA & IRAN
The United States should stop abusing the use of force and seek solutions via dialogue, China's foreign minister said, after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad on Friday killed Iran's most prominent military commander. The risky behaviour of the U.S. military violates the basic norms of international relations and will worsen tensions and turbulence in the region, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on a phone call on Saturday.
IRAQ & IRAN
NATO ambassadors will gather on Monday in Brussels for an urgent meeting convened by the head of the military alliance to discuss the situation in the Middle East after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, a NATO official said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg organized the meeting after consultations with member of the alliance. NATO ambassadors meet regularly, but Monday's meeting was organized at short notice after the alliance decided on Saturday to suspend its training mission in Iraq over security risks following the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani on Friday.
OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS
European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East in a talk with Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister Javad Zarif over the weekend, an EU statement said on Sunday. Days after the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States in Iraq, Borrell called on Iran to "carefully consider any reaction" and invited Zarif to Brussels to discuss the situation in the Middle East and the preservation of a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Iran has vowed revenge after a US air strike ordered by President Donald Trump killed the country's top general Qasem Soleimani. One likely way it could retaliate is through cyber attacks, experts say. "Iran has a long history of politically motivated cyber attacks across the world," Evercore analysts Ken Talanian and Kirk Materne wrote to investors in a note shared with CNN Business. "The attacks often follow closely to changes in [US] sanctions."