Iran's top general Soleimani killed in US strike

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8:23 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

What you need to know about the US airstrike in Baghdad

Debris from the airstrike at Baghdad airport is seen on Friday. Credit: Obtained by CNN
Debris from the airstrike at Baghdad airport is seen on Friday. Credit: Obtained by CNN

Americans are waking up to news of the US air strike in Baghdad, which killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and a number of others.

Here's a recap of what we know.

  • US drone strike kills top commander: US President Donald Trump ordered an air strike on Baghdad airport that killed Qasem Soleimani, who as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force became the architect of Tehran's proxy conflicts in the Middle East.
  • A huge escalation: Trump's move dramatically ramps up regional tensions that have pitted Tehran against Washington and its allies in the Middle East. The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies in several attacks in recent months.
  • Pompeo says attack saved US lives: Soleimani had been involved in planning an "imminent attack" in the region that put American lives at risk, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN on Friday. He said the US made an intelligence-based assessment that killing Soleimani would save Americans.
  • Iran vows 'harsh revenge': Three days of national mourning have been declared in Iran, where Soleimani was revered as a national hero, and thousands of demonstrators were seen marching in Tehran. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for "harsh revenge," according to a statement published to his official website.
  • Trump: Iran 'never won a war': Donald Trump tweeted combative remarks on Friday morning, writing: "Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!"
  • US tells citizens to get out of Iraq: The State Department urged US citizens Friday to leave Iraq immediately. It also warned that citizens "should not approach" its embassy in Baghdad and that all consular operations are suspended.
  • Democrats warn of consequences: The strike has divided US lawmakers, with several Democratic presidential candidates raising concerns about what comes next. Joe Biden said Trump "tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox," and Bernie Sanders said the move "puts us on the path" to war with Iran.
  • World governments react: Russia has cautioned that the attack could have "grave consequences," while China has urged the US to show "restraint." In Europe, the UK called for "all parties to de-escalate." The French government told its citizens in Iran to stay away from public gatherings.
  • Oil prices soar: Oil prices moved higher after the strike amid speculation that reprisals could target oil installations. Futures for Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped 4.3% to $69.08 per barrel on Friday. US oil futures gained 4.1%, reaching $63.69 per barrel. Both are on track for their biggest daily gains in about a month.
7:55 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Trump: "Iran never won a war"

US President Donald Trump has tweeted a combative message towards Iran, in his first remarks since ordering the drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

"Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!" he wrote, in an apparent slight against the nuclear deal his predecessor Barack Obama negotiated with the country.

Trump's only previous tweet after the attack showed an image of the American flag.

7:57 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

NATO watching situation in Iraq "very closely"

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) says it's watching developments in the Middle East following the deadly US drone strike on Baghdad.

NATO is monitoring the situation in the region very closely. We remain in close and regular contact with the US authorities. The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount. We continue to monitor the security environment and take all precautions necessary.”
8:06 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Pompeo: Killing Soleimani saved US lives from "imminent" attack

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told CNN the US government made an "intelligence-based assessment" to justify launching an air strike against Qasem Soleimani, and that the Iranian commander was "working actively" on an imminent attack in the region.

The decision to launch the air strike "saved American lives," Pompeo told CNN's New Day. "Dozens, if not hundreds" of American lives were at risk from "imminent" attacks in which Soleimani was involved, he said.

“These were threats that were located in the region," Pompeo added when asked if the US homeland was at risk.

He did not divulge details of the imminent attack, but said the Trump administration would "do our best" to release intelligence information in coming days.

Pompeo was pressed on comments by foreign politicians including the France's minister of state for Europe, who said the attack had made the world more dangerous. "The French are just wrong about that," Pompeo said. "The world is a much safer place today."

8:10 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Iraq says US oil workers to depart

A picture taken in June 2019 shows the entrance of Zubair oilfield, north of Basra, Iraq, in a key oil-producing region which hosts Iraqi and foreign companies, including US company Exxon Mobil. Credit: Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images
A picture taken in June 2019 shows the entrance of Zubair oilfield, north of Basra, Iraq, in a key oil-producing region which hosts Iraqi and foreign companies, including US company Exxon Mobil. Credit: Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images

Iraq’s Oil Ministry has confirmed that “a number of employees with US citizenship” working for oil companies in southern Iraq would depart the country “in response to the request of their government.”

“The ministry asserts that the conditions are normal in oil fields throughout Iraq. Production and export were not affected,” it said in a statement added.

Earlier on Friday, the US State Department – Bureau of Consular Affairs said American citizens should depart Iraq immediately, as a result of heightened tensions in Iraq and the region in the wake of the US attack that killed an Iranian military commander.

8:05 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Iraq’s president calls for restraint

Iraqi President Barham Salih speaks during a press conference in Baghdad in March 2019. Credit: Ameer Al Mohmmedaw/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images
Iraqi President Barham Salih speaks during a press conference in Baghdad in March 2019. Credit: Ameer Al Mohmmedaw/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Iraqi President Barham Salih has called for restraint following the US strike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

“We call on everyone to exercise self-restraint, and for the voice of reason and wisdom to prevail, and to place the national interest of Iraq above all,” Salih said in a statement. 

He warned that if “reason and logic” do not prevail then “the effects of this aggression… will threaten the peace of this region and Iraq.”

Salih added that Iraqis must set aside differences “in order to protect the great national interests, and to protect the sovereignty and security of Iraq, and spare the country and the people the scourge and tragedies of armed conflicts.”

The president condemned the US strike and expressed “sadness and sorrow” over the assassinations.

7:40 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Russia warns of "grave consequences" of US attack

Russia is “alarmed” by the killing of Qasem Soleimani and fears the attack could disrupt the situation in the Middle East, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on its official website.

“The news of the death of the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force Qasem Soleimani in a strike launched by the US armed forces at Baghdad airport are alarming," the statement reads. "Washington’s move is fraught with grave consequences in terms regional peace and stability."
"We presume that such actions do not contribute to finding solutions to the complex problems that have accumulated in the Middle East, but rather lead to a new round of escalation of tensions in the region,” the ministry added.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova earlier wrote on her official Facebook page that such escalation will “hit millions of people.”

"To condemn attacks on their embassies, states go to the UN Security Council with a draft statement. Washington did not go to the Security Council. So, the world’s reaction did not interest them," Zakharova wrote. "They were interested in the change of the situation in the region… This will not lead to anything but the escalation of tensions, which will certainly hit millions of people."

6:59 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Oil prices surge after US airstrike

Oil prices moved higher Friday after the US airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Futures for Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped 4.3% to $69.08 per barrel on Friday. US oil futures gained 4.1%, reaching $63.69 per barrel. Both are on track for their biggest daily gains in about a month.

A picture taken on July 15, 2019 shows Iraq's Majnoon oil field, some 40 kilometers from the eastern border with Iran, north of the Iraqi city of Basra. Credit: Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images
A picture taken on July 15, 2019 shows Iraq's Majnoon oil field, some 40 kilometers from the eastern border with Iran, north of the Iraqi city of Basra. Credit: Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, said in a research note that Iranian threats of retaliation could mean that oil installations would be targeted.

"An indirect response is the most apparent course of action, and oil installations and tankers were my first thoughts," he said.

But Halley added that it's hard to tell whether Friday's surge will be sustained.

Read the rest of the piece here.

6:54 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

US official confirms drone use in Soleimani attack

A US defense official tells CNN that a drone was used to conduct the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.