General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, has been assassinated by US forces in Iraq.
Iran has vowed retaliation, but so far there is no indication of what form that might take.
President Trump said the strike was carried out to “stop a war, not to start a war” and that Iran was planning an imminent attack on the US.
Trump’s decision to authorise an air strike that killed Iran’s most powerful military commander has seen tensions between the two nations escalate.
US military draft website crashes
So many Americans are afraid of being drafted to fight a war against Iran that they have crashed the website of the US Selective Service – the defence department agency that tracks information about American men who are eligible for military enlistment.
New York City mayor warns of ‘threat’
The Mayor of New York City, Democrat Bill de Blasio, has held a news conference to warn city residents they are “now potentially facing a threat that’s different and greater than anything we have faced previously”.
Previous attacks in the city have come from non-state actors, he noted, adding that “as of last night, we are dealing with a different reality”.
He adds that “at this point” there is a “de facto state of war between the United States of America and Iran”.
Other cities, including Los Angeles, Washington DC and Miami have also announced a heightened security threat.
EU warns of ‘spiraling violence’
The EU’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell warns that the cycle of violence in Iraq must end before it “spirals out of control”.
“Another crisis risks jeopardising years of efforts to stabilise Iraq,” he said in a new statement.
“Furthermore, the ongoing escalation threatens the whole region, which has suffered immensely and whose populations deserve life in peace.”
I killed him to stop a war, not start a war, Trump said
In the brief news conference Trump said
“We will find you. We will eliminate you. We will always protect American service members,” Trump says.
Gen Qasem Soleimani “made the deaths of innocent people his sick passion”, he says, and adds that the attacks affected people “as far away as New Delhi and London”.
“We can take comfort knowing that his reign of terror is over,” Trump says, adding that he made the decision to kill him to “stop a war”.
“We do not take action to start a war,” he added.
“I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary. And that particularly refers to Iran,” he continues.
Iran Foreign Minister: ‘We will launch international legal action’
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been speaking in Dubai, telling state TV that the US airstrike “was clearly a terrorist action”.
“Iran will launch various legal measures at the international level to hold America to account for Soleimani’s assassination,” Mr Zarif said, according to Reuters news agency.
In a tweet sent soon after the strike, Mr Zarif accused the US of “international terrorism”.
Democratic Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter : Donald Trump ripped up an Iran nuclear deal that was working. He’s repeatedly escalated tensions. Now he’s assassinated a senior foreign military official. He’s been marching toward war with Iran since his first days in office—but the American people won’t stand for it.
We’re on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East—one that would be devastating in terms of lives lost and resources wasted. We’re not here by accident. We’re here because a reckless president, his allies, and his administration have spent years pushing us here.
Democratic Senator and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the “gang of eight” – those leaders within Congress who are usually briefed on classified matters in advance – had not been briefed on the air strikes.
He said President Donald Trump would need congressional approval for further long-term action on Iran.
“It is my view that the president does not have the authority for a war with Iran,” he says.
Why did the US kill Qassem Soleimani?
US President Donald Trump accused “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world” of “plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel”.
But no details were given of the alleged planned attacks and a New York Times correspondent has quoted two unnamed US officials as telling her that evidence of such plotting was “razor thin”.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, that the US killing of Soleimani was an abuse of military power, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who also phoned Mr Zarif, said the killing “grossly” violated the norms of international law.
Iraq now finds itself in a difficult position as an ally both of Iran and of the US. Thousands of US troops remain in the country to assist in the broader struggle against the Sunni Muslim Islamic State (IS) group but Iraq’s government insists the US has acted beyond the terms of this agreement.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi labelled the missile strike as a “brazen violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a blatant attack on the nation’s dignity”, and Iraq’s parliament announced it would hold an emergency meeting on Sunday.
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