Iran's top general Soleimani killed in US strike

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9:19 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

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

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized President Donald Trump for starting "an unauthorized war with Iran."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized President Donald Trump for starting "an unauthorized war with Iran." Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Rep. Ro Khanna have teamed up to file legislation blocking funding for military intervention in Iran.

In a joint statement on Friday, they said Trump had started "an unauthorized war with Iran," and that the legislation would prevent funding for offensive military force without congressional approval.

The statement continued:

“Today, we are seeing a dangerous escalation that brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East. 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. 
“War must be the last recourse in our international relations. That is why our Founding Fathers gave the responsibility over war to Congress. Congressional inaction in the face of the threat of a catastrophic and unconstitutional Middle East conflict is not acceptable.
“We know that it will ultimately be the children of working-class families who will have to fight and die in a new Middle East conflict — not the children of the billionaire class. At a time when we face the urgent need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, to build the housing we desperately need, and to address the existential crisis of climate change, we as a nation must get our priorities right. The House and Senate should pass our legislation immediately and uphold our constitutional responsibilities. We must invest in the needs of the American people, not spend trillions more on endless wars.”
9:11 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Iran has appointed a replacement for Soleimani

Ismail Qaani has been named as the new commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force.
Ismail Qaani has been named as the new commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force. Handout/Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has appointed a new commander for the country’s Quds Force military organization after the death of Qasem Soleimani, according to a statement from his office published by the country's official news agency.

Major General Ismail Qaani served for years alongside Soleimani, he said, adding that the Quds Force's agenda would remain unchanged.

The elite military unit -- deemed to be a foreign terrorist organization by the US -- handles Iran's overseas operations.

“General Ismail Qaani has been one of the most prominent commanders in the Holy Defense and has served with the Martyr Commander [Soleimani] in the Quds Force for many years,” Khamenei said.
”The agenda of that Quds Force is exactly the same as that [under] the martyr Soleimani, I would like to thank all of those colleagues for their cooperation with Commander Qaani, and I wish them success, approval, and divine guidance.”

"New blood": Qaani's appointment comes as Iranian leaders pledged to avenge the strike. Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, the spokesman for Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said America would receive "a crushing response."

In an interview with Iranian state-funded Press TV, Sharif said Soleimani's death "will further strengthen this resistance front" and "will not halt the struggle of Muslims against Americans and the Zionists ... in fact, it injected new blood."

1:59 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

If you're just joining us now, here's what you need to know

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (left), the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, and Qasem Soleimani (right), the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force unit, were killed in the strike.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (left), the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, and Qasem Soleimani (right), the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force unit, were killed in the strike. AFP via Getty

The world is watching to see if Iran retaliates after the United States killed one of its top leaders in an airstrike in Baghdad yesterday.

If you're just joining us now, here's the breakdown:

  • What happened: In the early hours of Friday, US President Trump ordered an airstrike on the Baghdad airport -- killing Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a leading Iraqi military figure. At least six people were killed in the strike, according to an official at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
  • Who they were: Soleimani was head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force unit, and al-Muhandis was deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Soleimani was the architect of Tehran's proxy conflicts in the Middle East.
  • Why it happened: The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies in several attacks over recent months. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that Soleimani had been involved in planning an "imminent attack" in the region that put American lives at risk.
  • Iran's response: Three days of national mourning have been declared in Iran, where Soleimani was revered as a national hero, while thousands protested in Tehran. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for "harsh revenge."
  • What this means: The strike dramatically ramps up regional tensions that have pitted Iran against the US and its allies in the Middle East.
  • Global response: Within the US, Republicans praised Trump for standing up for America, while Democrats expressed concerns that the incident could spark a war. Globally, countries are calling for de-escalation and warning of potential long-lasting consequences.
8:01 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Cuban foreign minister calls Soleimani killing "a serious escalation"

Foreign ministers from Cuba and Venezuela condemned the US airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad and called it an assassination that will raise tensions in the region.

The attack “represents a serious escalation in the Middle Eastern region where conflict with incalculable consequences for peace and international security can break out,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted Friday.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also condemned the strike.

Arreaza tweeted the targeted killing of Soleimani has “no basis in international law [and was] directed directly against a military chief and a group of high-ranking officials from a sovereign country that found themselves in a conflict zone."



8:57 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Iranian ambassador to UN: Soleimani killing is an "act of war"

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations said the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani is an "act of war." 

Appearing on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said, “We can’t just close our eyes to what happened last night. Definitely there will be revenge, a harsh revenge.”

"Last night they (the US) started a military war by assassinating by an act of terror against one of our top generals. So what else can be expected of Iran to do? We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act," he said.

Ravanchi made the comments as President Trump wrapped up remarks at an evangelical event in Miami, where he said he ordered the killing of Soleimani because he was planning a "very major attack." 

Asked if Iran will have to act militarily, he said, "The response for a military action is a military action. By whom? When? Where? That’s for the future to witness.”


7:02 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Defense secretary Mark Esper expected to brief all members of Congress next week

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has “committed to providing Congress a detailed all Member briefing next week,” Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah tweeted Friday.

Farah also tweeted that Esper spoke today with US counterparts around the world about the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani. She added that he also called members of Congress and provided an update.

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

Selective Service System website crashes amid questions and fears of another US military draft

The Selective Service website crashed Friday because of "the spread of misinformation," the agency tweeted.

The website's crash came hours after the announcement that the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a US airstrike ordered by President Trump. The hashtag #WorldWarIII was one of the top trends on Twitter Friday.

The incident led to threats of retaliation from Iran's government and the escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. It sparked fears on social media of a war between the two countries and the possibility of another military draft in the US.

"Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time," the Selective Service tweeted. "If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue. We appreciate your patience."

Who is eligible for the draft? The draft ended in 1973 and the military changed to an all-volunteer force. Currently, all men ages 18 to 25 are required by law to provide basic personal information to the Selective Service System. Not doing so is illegal.

"The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual. In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft," the agency tweeted.

Keep reading.

6:09 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Trump open to diplomacy with Iran, official says

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump remains open to talks without preconditions with Iran, national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on Friday.

Trump has offered to talk "at any time" with Iran, but "those efforts have been rebuffed," O'Brien told reporters on a briefing call.

Later, O'Brien said Iran had an alternate path than its current course of destabilizing behavior, saying it could still "sit down with the United States" to negotiate and "behave like a normal nation that’s part of the community of nations."

5:43 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

US says Soleimani was planning attacks on US troops and diplomats 

National security adviser Robert O'Brien says Qasem Soleimani traveled to Baghdad from Damascus on Thursday ahead of the US strike that killed him.

O'Brien told reporters on a briefing call Friday that Soleimani was planning attacks on diplomats and American troops in the region.