Tensions between the United States and Iran escalated on Friday after an airstrike by US military killed Qassem Soleimani, the chief of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Also hit was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was until then the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF.
The Pentagon confirmed the strike, claiming that it was done “at the direction of the president”.
Soleimani and al-Muhandis’s deaths are a potential turning point in the region. Severe retaliation is expected from Iran and the forces it backs in the region, mostly against Israel and other US interests.
Here are all the latest updates which are as a result of the US-Iran tensions from Friday, January 3:
US urges her citizens to leave Iraq ‘immediately’
The United States is urging US citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” while citing the “heightened tensions in Iraq and the region”.
In a statement, the embassy said: “Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the US Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately…US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.”
A State Department statement added that “due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy.”
This comes after a group of people attempted to storm the embassy in Baghdad earlier this week to protest US airstrikes against a militia supported by Iran.
Hezbollah to continue with the ‘work’ of Soleimani after the US strike
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, said that his group would continue following the path of Soleimani, even after his death – broadcaster Al Manar reported.
According to Al Manar, Nasrallah said that the US would not achieve her goals following this “big crime” and that just punishment was the responsibility of all fighters.
Israel’s military on high alert
Israel has announced a high-security alert at her overseas delegations, fearing retaliation by Iran following the death of Soleimani.
The nation’s military has gone on heightened alert amid fears that Iran would attack them through its regional allies including the Hezbollah to the north or Palestinian group Hamas and the Islamic Jihad at Gaza.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister has reportedly cut short his trip to Greece, following the killing of Soleimani.
Syria condemns killing of Soleimani
Syria has reportedly come out guns blazing at the US following the attacks terming it to be a ‘treacherous, criminal American aggression that led to the killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani,’ according to the news agency SANA which cited a foreign ministry source.
In the words of the source, the attack constituted a “serious escalation” which reaffirms the U.S. responsibility for the instability in Iraq.
Pro-Hezbollah media house: ‘It is war’
A Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper, known as Al-Akhbar, following the killing of Soleimani had a simple headline in Arabic: The martyrdom of Soleimani: It is war.
Khamenei warns of harsh revenge
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for a three-day mourning period. He stated that the killing of Major General Soleimani will double the motivation for the resistance against the US and her ally; Israel.
According to Iranian state television, Khamenei noted that harsh revenge awaits the “criminals” who killed Soleimani.
Top House Democrats Condemn the Strike
US Democratic congressional leaders have issued statements condemning the strikes that killed Soleimani, saying the president did not obtain congressional approval.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats, and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions…tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America – and the world – cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”
“The Administration has conducted tonight’s strikes in Iraq targeting high-level Iranian military officials and killing Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran. Further, this action was taken without the consultation of the Congress,” she added.
Oil prices surge after Soleimani’s killing
Oil prices jumped more than 4% higher after the news of Soleimani’s death. Well, this was all expected.
More on the story to follow.