Live Updates: Iran Promises Retaliation After U.S. Kills General

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Iranian leaders issued strident calls on Friday for revenge against the United States after the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in an overnight airstrike at the Baghdad airport. The strike spurred mass displays of public mourning by Iran and its network of allies across the Middle East.

General Suleimani, a powerful strategist who represented Iran’s influence across the region, was killed by an American drone at Baghdad airport, in an attack that had been authorized by President Trump and that ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran. The death threatened to tip hostilities with the United States and its partners across the region into a new war.

General Suleimani was the head of the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades.

His death is a considerable blow to Tehran, and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for retaliation on Friday and for three days of national mourning.

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands,” the supreme leader said in a statement.

The general’s prominent role meant that his death could have a ripple effect in any number of countries across the Middle East where Iran and the United States compete for influence.

The strike was carried out by a MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired missiles on a convoy of vehicles leaving the airport. Several other officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran were also killed.

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The United States has long been at odds with Iran over its nuclear program and influence in Iraq and other countries in the region. Those tensions have surged under Mr. Trump since he abruptly pulled the United States out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and reintroduced punishing sanctions against Tehran.

The strike on Friday was the latest escalation between the two nations after a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, believed to have been carried out by an Iran-backed militia, killed an American contractor in December.

The United States hit back with airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia that killed 24 and prompted outrage among some who saw that attack as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Iraqis lashed out at the United States, breaking into its embassy compound on Tuesday and setting fires inside the area. The breach prompted Mr. Trump to order roughly 750 additional American troops to be deployed to the region.

The State Department urged American citizens to leave Iraq immediately following the strike that killed General Suleimani in Baghdad, citing “heightened tensions.”

Oil prices jumped on Friday after the news of the general’s death: The price of Brent oil, the international benchmark, surged in the early hours of Hong Kong trading to nearly $70 a barrel — an increase of $3.

The immediate increase in the price of oil was among the largest since an attack on a critical Saudi oil installation in September that temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply.

By 11 a.m. in London, the price of Brent crude oil was at a three-month high of $69.20 a barrel. International oil companies based in the southeastern Iraqi city of Basra have begun evacuating American employees, according to Al Arabiya news outlet.

As the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which leads Iran’s operations abroad, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was the country’s top security and intelligence commander.

A senior military figure with considerable powers, General Suleimani, who was 62, was behind nearly all military and intelligence operations orchestrated by Iran in the past two decades. He directed Iran-backed militias in the fight against the Islamic State.

American officials had also accused him of causing the deaths of hundreds of soldiers during the Iraq war and he was believed to have played a central role in orchestrating Iran’s support for the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Lately, officials in the Trump administration had claimed that he fueled anger against the American presence in Iraq that culminated in the attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad this week.

In Iran, General Suleimani was a respected political figure among hard-liners and was close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was described by some officials as the country’s de facto second foreign minister.

To many Iranians, he was also a war hero, after becoming a commander while he was only in his 20s during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

A polished man with considerable charisma, as the journalist Dexter Filkins wrote in a 2013 New Yorker profile, General Suleimani lived in Tehran and had several children.

In a speech in 2018, he warned Mr. Trump not to take any military action against Iran.

“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine,” the general said at the time, according to Iranian news agencies. “Come. We are ready. If you begin the war, we will end the war.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appointed Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani as the new leader for the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on Friday, Iranian news agencies reported.

General Qaani, 62, was promoted from deputy commander of the Quds Force, hours after a United States drone strike killed his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. General Qaani became deputy commander of the force in 1997, when General Soleimani was named as chief commander, according to Reuters.

Ayatollah Khamenei said the program of the Quds force would be “unchanged from the time of his predecessor.”

The United States Treasury Department put General Qaani on a blacklist in 2012 for what it called “financial disbursements” to various terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.

In 2017, General Qaani was reported as warning that Iran had “buried many” like president Trump. “We are not a warmongering country,” he said at the time, according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim. “But any military action against Iran will be regretted.”

Large crowds gathered for Friday Prayer in Iran and filled public squares with mass protests, while officials met privately to plot strategy and leaders vowed to avenge General Suleimani’s death.

Images broadcast on Iranian state television showed hundreds of supporters of General Suleimani gathered in mourning outside his house in the southeastern town of Kerman, and later footage shows thousands gathered on the streets.

“The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime,” President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter.

Iran was working with Iraqi officials to repatriate the general’s body for a funeral service, perhaps as soon as Saturday, a number of Iranian journalists reported.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council also held an emergency meeting. According two people with knowledge of the discussion, council members received a written order from Mr. Khamenei that ordered that Iran “strike America directly and in exact proportion to the attack.”

In Iraq, the strike appeared likely to accelerate calls for the departure of American troops. Along with General Suleimani, it killed Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, the leader of a powerful militia that is backed by Iran but technically under the umbrella of the Iraqi military.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq praised Mr. al-Mohandis and General Suleimani as heroes in the fight against the Islamic State and condemned their killing as “a brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a blatant attack on the nation’s dignity.”

Iraq’s Parliament plans to convene an emergency session on Saturday to address the strike, which could accelerate calls to push United States forces from the country.

The starting point of the recent escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran began with the 2018 decision by President Trump to withdraw from a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran signed in 2015 by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.

Many experts said on Friday that any new negotiations to save the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, were now unlikely.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the killing of General Suleimani “an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region,” according to local news agencies.

“Soleimani served the cause of protecting Iran’s national interests with devotion,” the ministry added, using a different spelling for the general’s name.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for restraint on all sides, “especially the United States.”

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” the spokesman, Geng Shuang, said at a daily news briefing, according to news agencies.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, called on Friday for a de-escalation in tensions and said that further conflict in the region was not in his country’s interest.

“We have always recognized the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Suleimani,” Mr. Raab said in a statement. “Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a key architect of the nuclear deal, called the American drone strike an “act of international terrorism.”

In France, President Emmanuel Macron had yet to react, but the country’s junior minister for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, said that she would soon consult with countries in the region.

“We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” Ms. de Montchalin told French radio, calling for “stability and de-escalation.”

Reporting was contributed by Ben Hubbard, Farnaz Fassihi, Elian Peltier, Megan Specia, Isabel Kershner, Ronen Bergman and Catie Edmondson.

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Author: ApnayOnline is an oline news portal which aims to provide latest trendy news around the Asia

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