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Jan. 4, 2020

 

Trump says Iranian military leader was killed by drone strike ‘to stop a war,’ warns Iran not to retaliate

By Louisa Loveluck, Adam Taylor and Michael Brice-Saddler 

 

President Trump told reporters Friday that the United States had killed Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military figures, in a bid to “stop a war.” The president, speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, urged Iran not to retaliate.

“We did not take action to start a war,” he said.

The targeted killing of Soleimani, a powerful figure among forces aligned with Iran throughout the Middle East, dramatically increased tensions in the region and caused U.S. outposts and personnel to brace for retaliatory attacks. The attack also upset global markets and sent oil prices shooting upward. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warned Americans in Iraq to leave “immediately.”

 

The Pentagon said that it will deploy 3,500 additional troops to the Middle East after Iran vowed to exact “severe revenge” on the United States for the drone strike that killed Soleimani early Friday near the Baghdad airport.

 

Iraqi militias allied with Iran had been harassing U.S. forces in Iraq in recent weeks, including an attack on a base that killed a U.S. contractor. The United States has said that Soleimani was killed as he was planning new attacks and that Trump ordered the attack.

Here are key points of what we know:

Soleimani was a towering figure who was key in training Iran’s proxies around the region, especially in Iraq.

• There has been mixed reaction across the Middle East, with some praising Soleimani but others blaming him for instability in the region.

• Reaction in the United States has also been mixed, mostly along party lines between Republicans and Democrats.

• The Pentagon’s top general defended the decision to kill Soleimani on Friday afternoon, saying Soleimani was planning a “campaign of violence” against Americans.

 


2:30 a.m.

Airstrike kills five members of Iranian-backed militia, report says

By Michael Brice-Saddler

 

An airstrike early Saturday killed five members of an Iranian-backed militia north of Baghdad, an Iraqi security official told the Associated Press.

A U.S. official told the AP the American military was not responsible for the attack. The identities of those killed was not immediately known late Friday.

An official from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of pro-Iran militias in Iraq, denied that any of its top leaders were killed in the airstrike, which reportedly targeted a medical convoy.


2:00 a.m.

Does the president have to consult Congress?: Reporters answer readers’ questions about U.S. strike that killed Soleimani

By Washington Post staff

 

White House reporter Anne Gearan and Middle East reporter Miriam Berger answered readers’ questions about Soleimani, the attack that killed him, and what it means for the future. Read the full list.

Q: Does the president have to consult Congress before acting against an individual or country that poses an imminent danger (i.e. actually attacking U.S. citizens), or is consultation with Congress just good management and leadership? What does the law say in these cases?

— D.F.

A: No, the president is not legally bound to consult with Congress when an act of national defense is deemed an emergency. Congress is given the constitutional power to declare war, but no U.S. wars have been congressionally “declared” for decades. Instead, the president is given leeway to conduct warlike actions that everyone calls a war but that Congress doesn’t have to endorse with a vote. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) among others has railed against this for years, essentially calling it both a usurpation of power by the White House and an act of cowardice on the part of Congress. Past presidents have almost always found it prudent to consult with or inform at least a small group of national security leaders in Congress. — Anne Gearan

Q: Who will replace Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, and what is that person’s background?

— A. Hose

A: Iran’s supreme leader has already appointed Soleimani’s deputy, Gen. Ismail Qaani, as the slain commander’s replacement and vowed that the Quds Force will carry on as before. Like Soleimani, Qaani is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war that raged from 1980 to 1988. From there, he rose in the ranks to become the deputy commander of the Quds Force. In another similarity with Soleimani, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Qaani in 2012 for his support of Iran’s allies in the region. Unlike Soleimani, Qaani does not have a cultlike aura surrounding him. — Miriam Berger

Read the full list of questions and answers here.

 


1:17 a.m.

Defense stocks spike following airstrike against Iranian commander

By Aaron Gregg

 

WASHINGTON — Major weapons-builders saw their stock prices jump Friday after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian military official near the Baghdad airport, drawing immediate threats of retaliation.

With thousands of new U.S. troops already headed to the region to bolster security there, defense analysts now believe the long-running U.S. military presence in Iraq and the billions of taxpayer dollars spent there every year on munitions and troop support is unlikely to be drawn down.

U.S. defense contractors, which have benefited financially from the long-running wars in Iraq in Afghanistan, are among Wall Street’s few beneficiaries of heightened tensions in the Middle East, analysts said. Stock prices of most major defense manufacturers closed several points higher Friday even as climbing oil prices appeared to hurt major stock indexes.

Lockheed Martin stock closed 3.6 percent higher Friday after languishing for the past month; Raytheon stock increased 1.48 percent; General Dynamics closed about 1 percent higher; and Northrop Grumman stock jumped 5.45 percent. Government services contractors like CACI and SAIC saw smaller price increases. Boeing stock remained flat.

Read more here.


1:00 a.m.

Bernie Sanders, Ro Khanna announce legislation to block funding for war with Iran

By Michael Brice-Saddler

 

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Friday announced they would introduce legislation that prohibits funding for military force against Iran without congressional authorization.

In a joint statement, the lawmakers decried “dangerous escalation that brings us closer to another war in the Middle East.”

War, they said, should be a last resort in the United States’ international relations.

“A war with Iran could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars and lead to even more deaths, more conflict, more displacement in that already highly volatile region of the world,” Sanders and Khanna wrote. “After authorizing a disastrous, $738 billion military budget that placed no restrictions on this president from starting an unauthorized war with Iran, Congress now has an opportunity to change course.”

 


12:17 a.m.

Trump praises military for ending Soleimani’s ‘bloody rampage’

By Michael Brice-Saddler

 

WASHINGTON — Speaking at an “Evangelicals for Trump” event at the El Rey Jesus Church in Miami, the president praised the military for the “flawless strike that terminated the terrorist ringleader responsible for gravely murdering and wounding thousands and thousands of people, and hundreds and hundreds, at least, of Americans.”

“[Soleimani’s] bloody rampage is now forever gone,” Trump said, adding that Soleimani was planning attacks against Americans, including a “very major attack.”

“We are a peace-loving nation, and my administration remains firmly committed to establishing peace and harmony among the nations in the world,” Trump said. “We do not seek war, we do not seek nation building, we do not seek regime change, but as president, I will never hesitate to defend the safety of the American people like you.”

He added: “Let this be a warning to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our citizens.”


11:58 p.m.

National security adviser says Soleimani was plotting attacks on U.S. ‘soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats’

By Dan Lamothe

 

WASHINGTON — In a conference call with reporters, national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien said early Friday evening that the strike on Soleimani happened after the Iranian commander recently visited Damascus and was plotting to target Americans.

“He was planning attacks on American soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats,” he said. “This strike was aimed at disrupting ongoing attacks that were being planned by Soleimani and deterring future Iranian attacks through their proxies or through the IRGC Quds Force directly against Americans.”

O’Brien said the Trump administration became aware of “what Soleimani was doing in the Middle East,” and the plots he was involved with.

“The president made a decision that … while there is always a risk in taking decisive action, there’s a greater risk in not taking that action,” O’Brien said. “The president was just not prepared to risk the lives of American servicemen and women and our diplomats, given Soleimani’s history and his efforts to further destabilize the region and the imminent nature of the attacks he was planning on Americans in Iraq and other locations.”

O’Brien added that Trump’s decision to target Soleimani came “ahead of the attack,” but declined to say how far in advance.

“The president was kept apprised on an ongoing basis of how the operation was proceeding, and was informed of the operation on a very regular basis,” he said. Shortly after the strike occurred, O’Brien added, “we received notification from commanders.”


11:46 p.m.

Soleimani’s legacy in Iraq: gruesome, high-tech IEDs that haunted U.S. troops

By Alex Horton

 

WASHINGTON — The death of Soleimani was a reminder of his grim legacy in Iraq, where sophisticated weapons and tactics that he oversaw menaced U.S. troops for years, leaving a trail of dead and wounded service members.

Explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), a weapon of Iranian engineering, were salted across battlefields wherever Iran-backed Shiite militias and fighters gathered, such as Kirkuk and Baghdad’s Sadr City.

The weapons, compact but potent, target armored vehicles in a way similar to traditional IEDs, but are much deadlier and more effective, Brian Castner, a former Air Force explosive ordnance disposal officer, told The Washingon Post.

Shaped like a coffee can but a little smaller, with a slightly concave end, the device is packed with plastic explosives that turn a copper plate into molten slugs that barrel through several inches of armor, sending molten shards tumbling through bodies and vehicle parts.

They killed 196 U.S. troops between 2005 and 2011, defense officials said.

“They were really bad,” Castner said.

EFPS were by far the most-dreaded explosive device he encountered because of their deadly efficiency, he said, and one story illustrated their power.

A Humvee in Kirkuk was struck by one in 2006, and it took three legs from two soldiers. Castner was tasked with assessing the strike on the vehicle, which was still covered with blood.

“There was still one foot left in the Humvee,” Castner said.

 


11:12 p.m.

State Department officials say Soleimani killing saved hundreds, was not assassination

By Carol Morello

 

WASHINGTON — State Department officials said Friday that hundreds of Americans could have been killed if the United States had not thwarted the planning by killing Qasem Soleimani.

One official described Soleimani as “the indispensable man,” whose cunning and ingenuity made it possible for Iran to launch attacks on American interests in the region through a number of proxy militias he helped train and equip.

 

“With Soleimani dead, it will be very difficult for these proxies to be organized on the scale, lethality and effectiveness that they had under Soleimani,” said a senior State Department official, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity under rules stipulated by the State Department.

 

Qasem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting in Tehran in 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP)

 

“If we had not taken this action, and hundreds of Americans were dead, you would be asking me, ‘Why didn’t you take out Soleimani when you had the chance?’ The conditions were met to take decisive action to eliminate a very, very, very effective terrorist in the heart of the Middle East to save hundreds of American lives.”

Another official bristled when a reporter used the word “assassination” to describe Soleimani’s killing.

“Assassinations are not allowed under law,” the second official said. “Revenge killings, nonjudicial executions are not. The criteria is, do you have overwhelming evidence that somebody is going to launch a military or terrorist attack against you. Check that box.”

10:46 p.m.

Gov. Cuomo sends National Guard to New York City airports

By Adam Taylor

 

WASHINGTON — New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced Friday that the state would be bolstering security at key infrastructure points, including sending the National Guard to New York City airports.

“Recent international events are understandably causing some anxiety, and while New York has not received any direct threats, out of an abundance of caution I am directing National Guard and state agencies to increase security and step up patrols at our most critical facilities,” Cuomo said.

An announcement from the governor’s office noted that the New York Power Authority was conducting checks and patrols on utilities.

 


10:37 p.m.

Rand Paul calls airstrike ‘death of diplomacy’ in Iran

By Colby Itkowitz

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a critic of military intervention, called the killing of Soleimani the “death of diplomacy” in the Middle East and said Trump has received “unfortunate counsel” on Iran, specifically calling out Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

Paul, making those comments on Fox News, said he had not spoken to Trump since the attack.

“I do fear the Iranians are going to escalate this. The president has shown prudence in the past in keeping the option of diplomacy open, but I think the door has completely shut now on diplomacy,” Paul said. “I don’t see any avenue, any way talks could begin again. Unfortunately diplomacy is dead now in the Middle East with Iran.”

 


10:17 p.m.

Esper, Milley could appear before House panel as soon as next week

By Mike DeBonis

 

WASHINGTON — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said in an interview Friday that he hopes to have top Trump administration and military officials testify about Iran before his panel as soon as next week.

Smith (D-Wash.) said he had been unable to arrange a secure briefing from Pentagon officials since Thursday night’s strike but hoped to arrange a public hearing with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shortly after House members return to Washington on Tuesday.

“We’re going to try as high a ranking person as we can get as soon as we can get them,” he said.

Smith said he was exploring legislative options to respond to the apparent escalation, including resurrecting a measure to constrain the president’s ability to strike Iran that was passed by the House last year but ultimately rejected by the Trump administration and dropped from a compromise bill passed in December. But he said he was focused for the moment on getting more facts and a more coherent strategy from the administration.

“If they were going to go down this road, it would be much more appropriate if Congress were to have a voice,” he said. “Even [George W. Bush] during the Iraq War regularly had key leaders in Congress over at the White House to talk about what needed to be done. The administration has not really done that. … We have some experience in this area, and I think that dialogue would be helpful in terms of arriving at a better policy and also helpful in ensuring that there was support for whatever that policy wound up being.”

 


9:51 p.m.

Trump says Soleimani was killed to ‘stop a war’

By Colby Itkowitz

 

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on Iran at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida on Friday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

 

WASHINGTON — Trump, in his first public remarks since the airstrike in Iran, said Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” against U.S. personnel in the Middle East and needed to be stopped.

The military action was intended to “stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said, in brief comments from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He also said he was not seeking regime change in Iran, but warned the current Iranian regime to stop its efforts to destabilize the region.

Trump also warned that if Americans are threatened anywhere, the United States is “ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.”

Soleimani was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump said. “Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American. We will find you, we will eliminate you.”

He added that Soleimani “made the death of innocent people his sick passion” and that the world was “a safer place without these monsters.”

Trump left the podium without taking questions.


9:13 p.m.

Kaine files war powers resolution to prevent war with Iran

By Mike DeBonis

 

WASHINGTON — Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, introduced a war powers resolution to force a debate and vote in Congress to prevent further escalation of hostilities with Iran. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

“For years, I’ve been deeply concerned about President Trump stumbling into a war with Iran. We’re now at a boiling point, and Congress must step in before Trump puts even more of our troops in harm’s way. We owe it to our servicemembers to have a debate and vote about whether or not it’s in our national interest to engage in another unnecessary war in the Middle East,” Kaine said.

War powers resolutions are privileged, meaning that the Senate will be forced to vote on the legislation. The resolution underscores that Congress has the sole power to declare war, as laid out in the Constitution. The resolution requires that any hostilities with Iran must be explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force, but does not prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack. The resolution will force a public debate and vote in Congress as intended by the framers of the Constitution to determine whether United States forces should be engaged in these hostilities.

 


9:10 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says current situation resembles 2003 Iraq invasion

By Sean Sullivan

 

ANAMOSA — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) preempted a town hall meeting in Anamosa, Iowa, on Friday to deliver a forceful rebuke of Trump’s decision to order the killing of Soleimani. He emphasized his opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and drew parallels to the current situation in the Middle East.

“This is a dangerous escalation that brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East, which could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars and lead to even more death, more conflict, more displacement in that already highly volatile region of the world,” Sanders said, speaking against the backdrop of large American flag inside the National Motorcycle Museum.

The Vermont senator has a long record of opposing many U.S. military inventions abroad. As a candidate for president, he has frequently brought up his opposition to the Iraq War and at times has contrasted his stance with former vice president Joe Biden’s support for the invasion. Sanders did not mention Biden is his speech Friday. But he focused intensely on his actions from nearly two decades ago, quoting himself and arguing that his words have relevance today.

He said that when he voted against the Iraq War in 2002, “I feared that it would result in greater destabilization in that country and in the entire region. At that time, I warned about the deadly so-called unintended consequences of unilateral invasion. Today, 17 years later, that fear has unfortunately turned out to be a truth.”

He added, “It gives me no pleasure to tell you at this moment we face a similar crossroads fraught with danger.”

 


9:09 p.m.

Yemen’s Houthis call for immediate action against U.S.

By Sudarsan Raghavan

 

CAIRO — A senior leader of the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen called on Tehran to take immediate action against the United States and avenge the killing of Soleimani as well as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a Shiite paramilitary force closely allied with Iran.

“The American aggressiveness of assassinating Soleimani and Al-Muhandis is a war crime against the nation,” said Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, in a brief statement published on the Houthis’ official website.

He also gave condolences to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and the political leadership in both Iraq and Iran.

Niamh McBurney, the Middle East and North Africa head at the global risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft, said in an email that “the most likely response from Iran will come through its proxies and affiliated groups in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.”

The Houthis, which have launched numerous drone attacks into neighboring Saudi Arabia, are widely believed to be supported by Iran. Saudi Arabia leads an American-backed regional Sunni Muslim coalition that is fighting the Shiite Houthis in Yemen, largely to prevent Iran’s growing influence in the region.

 


8:52 p.m.

Pentagon says a Soleimani-planned attack ‘might still happen’

By Dan Lamothe

 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s top general defended the decision to kill a top Iranian military commander in Iraq, saying Friday that the United States had “clear and unambiguous” intelligence that Soleimani was planning a stepped-up “campaign of violence” against Americans and that an attack “might still happen.”

Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a meeting with several reporters in his office that Soleimani, a major general who commanded Iran’s Quds Force, was killed in Iraq after U.S. officials recently became aware of intelligence that led them to believe that with the “size, scale, scope” of what they saw in planning, there was a greater risk in not taking action against Soleimani than in doing so.

“Is there risk? Damn right there’s risk,” Milley said of possible Iranian reactions. “But we’re mitigating, and we think we’re taking appropriate mitigations.”

Milley said there is a range of possible outcomes after the strike, and the United States is preparing for them.

“The ball is in the Iranian court,” Milley said. “It is their choice what the next steps are.”

 


8:31 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells Pompeo the strike that killed Soleimani was illegal

By Robyn Dixon

 

MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that a drone strike that killed senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was illegal and threatened Middle Eastern stability and peace.

“Lavrov emphasized that the targeted actions of a UN member state to eliminate officials of another UN member state, moreover, in the territory of a third sovereign state without its knowledge, flagrantly violate the principles of international law and deserve to be condemned,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Moscow urges Washington to abandon the illegal power methods to achieve its goals in the international arena and solve any problems at the negotiating table,” the statement said.

 


7:58 p.m.

New York mayor warns of potential threat to the city after airstrike

By Shayna Jacobs

 

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill DeBlasio warned that New York City could be under a “threat that’s different and greater than anything we have faced previously.”

“We have never confronted in recent decades the reality of a war with a government of a large country with an international terror network at its behest,” DeBlasio told reporters at a news conference. “No one has to be reminded that New York City is the number one terror target in the United States.”

Iranian allies have been interested in attacking the city before, the mayor said. “We have plenty of knowledge of previous efforts by Iranian proxies to scout and target locations in New York City. Hezbollah and others have made it a point over the years,” DeBlasio said.

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said that there were “no specific credible threats” at this time, but that there would be heightened vigilance from law enforcement after the killing of Soleimani.

 


7:58 p.m.

McConnell, Schumer offer opposing takes on drone strike in floor addresses

By Colby Itkowitz

 

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) weighed in on the U.S. drone strike during back-to-back floor speeches, with McConnell praising the Iranian military commander’s death and Schumer condemning the White House for undertaking the operation without congressional input.

McConnell, calling Soleimani a “terrorist mastermind” who was “directly responsible for deaths of more American service members than anyone,” urged his colleagues to reserve judgment until they were briefed by the Pentagon. McConnell said he was setting up a classified briefing for early next week.

“Predictable enough in this political environment, the operation that led to Soleimani’s death may prove controversial or divisive,” McConnell said. “I recommend that all senators want to review the facts and hear from the administration before passing much public judgment on this operation and its potential consequences.”

But Schumer said he and other Democratic leaders should have been informed about the strike. It’s unclear which Republicans were given advance notice, but Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he knew ahead of time.

“I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations of this level of significance. We were not,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor, referring to the House speaker and minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. “When the security of the nation is at stake, decisions must not be made in a vacuum.”

 


7:34 p.m.

In Iraqi capital, deserted streets amid fear of more violence

By Mustafa Salim

 

BAGHDAD — Anxieties and fear rippled through the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Friday as an entire nation held its breath. Streets were quiet. Many restaurants were deserted. Along checkpoints down the streets, young soldiers and militiamen clutched their weapons tight, appearing nervous at what might follow.

Iraqis know well what it means to be trapped in a bloody shadow war between allies Iran and the United States. Some referenced the feeling of calm before the storm that pervaded the days before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. “It’s just like 2003, but we have social media this time,” one woman wrote in a post.

In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests that have swept the country and decried Iranian influence over Iraq’s politics, early morning celebrations over Soleimani’s death gave way to a darker mood. Many said they feared a violent assault by Iran-backed militias, as they have already witnessed several times in recent months. Unlike previous Fridays among the protesters, there were no chants, activities or free food. For one of the young men gathered there, Ayad Emad, it was time to leave. “World War III is about to happen, and this is beyond demonstrations demanding reforms. No one is going to listen to us, given the circumstances.”

More than 500 people have already died in a months-long and Iran-backed campaign to quash the movement. “If there is an act of revenge for what happened this morning, there will be unnecessary bloodshed,” Emad said.

 


7:09 p.m.

U.S. sending thousands of troops to Middle East

By Dan Lamothe

 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Friday afternoon that it is deploying 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East to bolster security in the region.

The forces include battalion of about 750 soldiers from the division that arrived in Kuwait on Thursday, said three defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The soldiers are with the division’s “ready brigade,” a unit that is trained and prepared to deploy on short notice. Defense officials said Thursday that the remainder of the brigade was ordered to prepare for a deployment, but it wasn’t clear then if they would do so.

“This deployment was an anticipated and expected outcome when they were placed on notice,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Friday. “The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, and will assist in reconstituting the reserve.”

Two of the defense officials said that the military also has put hundreds of soldiers from the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy on alert that they could deploy. They are preparing to do so, but it is not yet clear whether they will be sent.

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, a force of about 4,500 Marines and sailors aboard combat ships, also is moving east toward the Mediterranean, and could be called upon if the situation with Iran escalates, defense officials said. The group includes jets, amphibious vehicles and about 2,200 Marines.

 


6:49 p.m.

Mixed reaction in Middle East to Soleimani’s death

By Sarah Dadouch and Kareem Fahim

 

BEIRUT — As the Middle East grappled with the fallout from Soleimani’s death, perhaps the most divided reaction came from Syria, where the Iranian commander is seen as a hero by supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was backed by Iran, and a villain by Assad’s opponents.

“The martyr Soleimani will be canonized in the souls of the Syrian people who will not forget his standing beside the Syrian Arab army,” Assad said in a telegram to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But in Ariha, a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province, Syrians filled the streets in celebration, waving revolutionary flags. “Soleimani is gone, gone, gone,” a man sang.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the news was a shock. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that has seats in parliament and is one of Iran’s staunchest allies, released a statement praising Soleimani’s record leading militias in Iraq, a country Nasrallah said had been freed “from occupation and terrorism.”

Lebanon’s foreign ministry, headed by Gebran Bassil, a Hezbollah ally, also condemned the U.S. attack and called it a “dangerous escalation against Iran that aims to increase tension in the area.”

There was a muted official response on Friday from the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, including from states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that have prodded the United States to take stronger action against Iran, while at the same time fretting about the consequences of escalating tensions in the region.

A Saudi government statement, noting the threats from “terrorist militias” in Iraq, also called for “self-restraint to prevent everything that might exacerbate the situation.” Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, wrote that “in light of the quickening regional developments, wisdom and balance should prevail,” in a message on Twitter.

There were scattered protests against the United States after Friday prayers in Bahrain, a tiny Persian Gulf state with a Shiite Muslim majority that hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, according to activists there. In Kuwait, the government warned citizens to “avoid discourse that might affect national unity and lead to division and trouble,” according to the Kuwait News Agency.

 


6:44 p.m.

Photos show Iran’s supreme leader visiting Soleimani family

By Adam Taylor

 

WASHINGTON — In photographs released by the official office of Iran’s supreme leader on Friday, Khamenei was shown visiting Soleimani’s mourning family in Tehran.

Soleimani is reported to have had four children. An official from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an alliance of pro-Iran militias in Iraq, told The Washington Post that his son-in-law was also among the dead in Friday morning’s strike too.

 


6:28 p.m.

Canadian foreign minister calls for de-escalation

By Amanda Coletta

 

TORONTO — Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne called on all sides Friday “to exercise restraint and pursue de-escalation” after a U.S. airstrike killed one of Iran’s top military commanders.

“Canada has long been concerned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, led by Qasem Soleimani, whose aggressive actions have had a destabilizing effect in the region and beyond,” he said in a statement Friday.

Canada has as many as 850 military personnel in Iraq and the surrounding region, as a member of the global coalition against the Islamic State and to train Iraqi forces. Champagne said their safety and that of Canada’s diplomats is his “paramount concern.”

 


6:03 p.m.

Iraq militia warns of ‘grave consequences’

By Liz Sly

 

BEIRUT — Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia whose rocket attack last Friday on U.S. troops in Iraq precipitated the sudden escalation in tensions, warned Friday that the United States would face “grave consequences” for the killing of Soleimani and the group’s deputy leader.

The strike “places Iraq, the region, and the world in front of a dangerous juncture, the consequences of which may lead toward a war that spares none” the militia warned in a statement. “This will be the beginning of the end of the American presence in Iraq and the region.”

 

Members of Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah and of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a mostly Shiite network of local armed groups trained and armed by Iran, demonstrate

outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Kataib Hezbollah is one of dozens of Shiite militias in Iraq that fall under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashd Shaabi, whose deputy leader Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed. It was considered one of the most directly influenced by Iran and was regarded as an extension of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, which Soleimani commanded.

The United States is holding Kataib Hezbollah responsible for an escalating campaign of rocket attacks targeting Iraqi bases where U.S. troops are present that culminated in the death last week of a U.S. contractor in Kirkuk. The U.S. airstrikes carried out in response against Kataib Hezbollah bases last Sunday triggered the attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad by thousands of militia supporters on Tuesday. The group had agreed to leave the embassy perimeter Wednesday, before Soleimani was targeted early Friday.

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