US Accuses Slain Iranian General Of Threatening Citizens

The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, receives condolences following the death of his mother in Tehran.  AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said that the Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani was planning imminent action that threatened American citizens when he was killed in a US strike.

Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) foreign operations arm, was killed by an air raid on Baghdad international airport.

“He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action, as he described it — that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk,” Pompeo told CNN.

“We know it was imminent,” Pompeo said of Soleimani’s plot, without going into detail about the nature of the planned operation.

“This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process,” Pompeo added.

The top US diplomat spent the day calling officials worldwide to discuss the killing, which brought a promise of “severe vengeance” from Tehran.

Among those he phoned were Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and Russia and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Pompeo also spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key ally whom he thanked for Riyadh’s “steadfast support and for recognizing the continuing aggressive threats posed by” the IRGC, the State Department said.

Separately, Pompeo designated as a “foreign terrorist organization” Aas’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), a group it says is “extensively funded and trained” by the IRGC, and also blocked its assets and those of two of its leaders.

“AAH and its leaders are violent proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

“Acting on behalf of their masters in Tehran, they use violence and terror to further the Iranian regime’s efforts to undermine Iraqi sovereignty.”

AFP

Iran Attack: Israeli PM Netanyahu Cuts Short Foreign Trip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020. Inset Iran Top General Major General Qasem Soleimani/AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heading home Friday after cutting short a visit to Greece, a source in his office said, after the US killed a top Iranian commander.

Israel’s security cabinet was set to meet Friday to discuss possible threats to the Jewish state after the United States, its closest ally, killed Major General Qasem Soleimani in a missile strike near Baghdad airport on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the world has reacted with alarm to the development, with many governments appealing for restraint.

Although, the attack was praised by US President Donald Trump’s Republicans and close ally Israel, but elsewhere there were sharp warnings it could inflame regional tensions.

Following are some of the reactions from around the world:

 ‘Terminated’ 

US President Donald Trump said Soleimani was “terminated” when he was on the verge of attacking US diplomats but insisted that Washington is not seeking to topple Iran’s government.

But among Democrats, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the killing risks provoking a “dangerous escalation of violence”.

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden said.

 ‘Aggravate situation’ 

“This action can seriously aggravate the situation in the region,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to a Kremlin readout of a phone conversation with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

 ‘Cannot afford another war’ 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned of the need to avoid war in the Gulf.

“This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.

 ‘Remain calm’ 

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He said Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

‘Spark a devastating war’ 

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said the US strike, which also killed an Iraqi commander, would “spark a devastating war”.

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people,” he said.

It was a “flagrant violation of the conditions authorising the presence of US troops” on Iraqi soil, he added.

‘Cycle of violence’ 

“The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped before it spirals out of control,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“The EU calls on all the actors involved and on those partners who can have an influence to exercise maximum restraint and show responsibility in this crucial moment.”

 ‘Will not be forgotten’ 

The Syrian regime condemned the killing and heaped praise on the Iranian general.

The Syrian people “will not forget that he stuck by the side of the Syrian Arab army”, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a letter of condolences sent to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 ‘Avoid aggravating situation’ 

Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia cautioned against “anything that could aggravate the situation” while the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Qatar also called for “restraint.”

The Jordanian foreign ministry also called for efforts to be  made to avoid an escalation.

 ‘Meting out punishment’

“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide,” the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militant group, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a statement.

“We will carry a flag on all battlefields and all fronts and we will step up the victories of the axis of resistance with the blessing of his pure blood.”

 ‘Threaten peace and stability’ 

“Pakistan has viewed with deep concern the recent developments in the Middle East, which seriously threaten peace and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity are the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, which should be adhered to. It is also important to avoid unilateral actions and use of force.”

The foreign ministry in neighbouring India said: “We have noted that a senior Iranian leader has been killed by the US. The increase in tension has alarmed the world.”

 ‘Against foreign intervention’ 

“It is manifest that the operation carried out by the US will increase insecurity and instability in the region… Turkey has always been against any foreign intervention in the region, assassinations and sectarian conflicts,” the foreign ministry said.

‘Act with restraint’ 

French President Emmanuel Macron urged restraint after Soleimani’s killing.

In his telephone call with Putin, Macron said there should be no “new dangerous escalation of tensions” and “called on all the parties to act with restraint,” the Elysee said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said London had “always recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force. “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

AFP

US Killing Of Top Iranian General Forces Oil Prices To Rise

Indigenous Firms Plan To Increase Oil Output
File photo

 

Oil prices soared more than four percent Friday following news that the US had killed a top Iranian general, fanning fresh fears of a conflict in the crude-rich region, with Tehran warning of retaliation.

The head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, was hit in an attack on Baghdad’s international airport early Friday, according to Hashed al-Shaabi, a powerful Iraqi paramilitary force linked to Tehran.

Later, Donald Trump tweeted a picture of the American flag, and the Pentagon said he had ordered Soleimani’s killing.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “severe revenge” for “the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood”, while the country’s foreign minister called the move a “dangerous escalation”.

Brent surged 4.4 percent to $69.16 and WTI jumped 4.3 percent to $63.84 as investors grow increasingly worried about the effects of a possible flare-up in the tinderbox Middle East on supplies of the commodity. Both oil contracts later pared the gains but remained well up.

“This is more than just bloodying Iran’s nose,” said AxiTrader’s Stephen Innes. “This is an aggressive show of force and an outright provocation that could trigger another Middle East war.”

The killing of Soleimani is a dramatic escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran and comes after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy in Iraq following deadly American air strikes on the hardline Hashed faction.

The attack on the embassy highlighted new strains in the US-Iraqi relationship, which officials from both countries have described to AFP as the “coldest” in years.

Oil prices saw a record surge in September after attacks on two Saudi Arabian facilities briefly slashed output in the world’s top exporter by half, with Trump blaming Iran for the attack and previous other blasts on tankers in the Gulf last year.

 ‘A less safe world’

The crisis also comes as tensions between the US and North Korea worsen, with Kim Jong Un declaring a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests had ended, with US talks going nowhere.

“We are waking up to a less safe world than it was only hours ago, especially if we combine this with simmering tension in the Korean peninsula,” Innes added.

The drama sent investors rushing for the hills and safe-haven units rallied with the yen up 0.6 percent against the dollar and gold climbing 1.4 percent towards $1,600 and a near seven-year high.

High-risk currencies retreated against the greenback, with South Korea’s won down 0.8 percent, Australia’s dollar off 0.6 percent and the South African rand down 1.7 percent.

Equities were mixed, having been rallying for the second day of the year on China-US trade optimism.

Hong Kong fell 0.3 percent, Shanghai ended down 0.1 percent and Singapore retreated 0.7 percent, while Mumbai eased 0.5 percent.

But there were gains in Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Manila and Taipei.

Regional energy firms were the big winners, with Santos surging more than two percent in Sydney and while Hong Kong-listed PetroChina climbed 2.8 percent.

Markets had all been well up before news of the strike, thanks to ongoing optimism fuelled by the China-US trade agreement, looser central bank monetary policies and easing Brexit worries.

“Investors are worried that the situation in Iran will worsen, since there could be some retaliation,” said Steven Leung at Mizuho Bank. “People will want to cut risk ahead of the weekend. Stocks have rallied a lot in the past month or so, so any bad news flow is a reason to take profit.”

In early European trade London fell 0.5 percent, Paris lost 0.6 percent and Frankfurt retreated 0.8 percent.

Key figures around 0820 GMT 

West Texas Intermediate: UP $1.85 at $63.03 per barrel

Brent Crude: UP $2.19 at $68.44 per barrel

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 28,451.50 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,083.79 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,565.45

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3120 from $1.3139 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 85.14 pence from 85.02 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1170 from $1.1172

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.12 from 108.54 yen

New York – Dow: UP 1.2 percent at 28,868.80 (close)

AFP

How The World Is Reacting To US Killing Of Top Iran General

Qasem Soleimani, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General and commander of the Quds Force, speaks during an interview with members of the Iranian leader’s bureau in Tehran.  AFP

 

The world reacted with alarm on Friday after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US strike in Iraq, with leaders appealing for restraint.

The assassination was praised by US President Donald Trump’s Republicans but elsewhere there were warnings of the danger it could inflame regional tensions.

Following are some of the reactions from around the world:

 ‘Severe revenge’ 

“Martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts in all these years,” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Twitter, declaring three days of mourning.

“With him gone, God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped, but severe revenge awaits the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood and other martyrs’ in last night’s incident.”

Khamenei called Soleimani the “international face of the resistance” and said he was killed by “the most cruel of those on earth”.

All people who back the resistance would be his “avengers”.

“The lack of our devoted and dear general is bitter, but continuing the fight and achieving final victory will embitter the murderers and criminals even more.”

 ‘Price of killing Americans’ 

“In a display of resolve and strength, we struck the leader of those attacking our sovereign US territories,” top House of Representatives Republican Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.

“Wow – the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a close confidant of Trump, wrote on Twitter.

‘Adventurist step’ 

“The killing of Soleimani… was an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region,” the Russian foreign ministry was quoted as saying by news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS.

“Soleimani served the cause of protecting Iran’s national interests with devotion. We express our sincere condolences to the Iranian people.”

 ‘Dangerous escalation’

The killing of Soleimani risks provoking a “dangerous escalation of violence”, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” former vice president Joe Biden said in a statement.

“Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”

‘Appeal for restraint’ 

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing.

“We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He said Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is a key partner of Iran and major buyer of the country’s oil.

 ‘Spark a devastating war’

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said the US strike, which also killed an Iraqi commander, was an “aggression” that would “spark a devastating war”.

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people,” he said in a statement.

Abdel Mahdi said the strike was a “flagrant violation of the conditions authorising the presence of US troops” on Iraqi soil.

‘World more dangerous’ 

“We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” France’s Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin told French radio, saying President Emmanuel Macron would consult soon with players in the region.

“In such operations, when can see an escalation is under way, but what we want above all is stability and de-escalation,” Montchalin said.

“All of France’s efforts… in all parts of the world aim to ensure that we are creating the conditions for peace or at least stability,” she added.

“Our role is not to take sides, but to talk with everyone,” Montchalin said.

 ‘Cowardly aggression’ 

The Syrian government accused Washington of trying to fuel conflict in the Middle East.

Syria is “certain that this cowardly US aggression… will only strengthen determination to follow in the path of the resistance’s martyred leaders,” a foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by the state news agency SANA.

 ‘Divine victory’ 

Iraqis who have demonstrated for months against a government they see as beholden to Iran broke into song and dance after the US strike.

“Oh Qasem Soleimani, this is a divine victory,” they cheered in Baghdad’s iconic Tahrir Square, the epicentre of their movement.

“This is God’s revenge for the blood of those killed,” one added, after nearly 460 people were killed in violence that many demonstrators have blamed on Iran-backed security forces.

AFP

Iran Attack: The World Is Now ‘More Dangerous’, Says France

 

The US killing of a top Iranian military commander has made the world “more dangerous,” France’s Europe minister said Friday, calling for efforts to de-escalate the deepening conflict in the Middle East.

“We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” Amelie de Montchalin told RTL radio, saying President Emmanuel Macron would consult soon with “players in the region.”

The United States confirmed it was responsible for an airstrike early Friday that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, ratcheting up the proxy war between the two powers.

“In such operations, when we can see an escalation is underway, but what we want above all is stability and de-escalation,” Montchalin said.

“All of France’s efforts… in all parts of the world aim to ensure that we are creating the conditions for peace or at least stability,” she added.

“Our role is not to take sides, but to talk with everyone,” Montchalin said.

AFP