Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful general in the early hours of Friday, in a dramatic escalation of an already bloody struggle between Washington and Tehran for influence across the region.
Suleimani, who ran Iranian military operations in Iraq and Syria, was hit by the drone strike while local allies from the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) drove him from Baghdad airport. The de facto leader of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close Suleimani associate, was also killed in the attack.
General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” a Pentagon statement said. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”
Minutes before the announcement, Trump tweeted a US flag without comment. Later, the White House put out a statement saying the strike was a “decisive defensive action” carried out “at the direction of the president”.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, ordered three days of mourning and vowed that the US would face “severe revenge” for the killing.
The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said in a statement: “Suleimani’s martyrdom will make Iran more decisive to resist America’s expansionism and to defend our Islamic values. With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge.”
The US assassination of Qassem Suleimani may have dealt a final blow to hopes of keeping the Iranian nuclear deal alive until the American elections next year, European diplomats fear.
There is also concern that the Iraqi parliament will seek to expel the 5,000 US troops from Iraq with unpredictable consequences for the region, including the fight against Islamic State.
These private concerns were voiced amid public European calls for all sides to de-escalate the crisis, appeals that are unlikely to be heeded in Tehran, which is intent on some form of reprisal.
In a statement that neither condemned nor condoned the killing of Suleimani, the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qassem Suleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
France’s European minister, Amélie de Montchalin, also called for calm. Speaking on French radio, she said any military escalation was always dangerous. “At European level, we have to work in collective multilateral frameworks and prevent the powers, one against the other, from playing their game in an unpredictable manner,” she said. “Our role is not to stand on one side or the other, it is to speak with everyone.”
She said the French president, Emmanuel Macron, would be consulting widely on Friday
Source: The Guardian