Iran's top general Soleimani killed in US strike

By Jessie Yeung, Fernando Alfonso III, Tara John, Julia Hollingsworth, Rob Picheta, Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 4:26 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020
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9:45 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Syrian opposition celebrates Soleimani's death: This "marks the end of one of the most prominent war criminals"

From CNN's Eyad Kourdi 

Video from Syria's last rebel-held territory in Idlib province shows people distributing sweets celebrating the death of Qasem Soleimani.

"We congratulate the free people of Syria on the death of the criminal Qassem Soleimani, hopefully Assad will have the same fate," a sign on the sweets tray read. 

The Syrian opposition has been fighting the Syria's president Bashar Al Assad and his government, which is backed heavily by Iran. Soleimani was seen as one of the chief architects of military strategy that allowed the Syrian regime to beat back Syrian rebels. In the brutal siege of Aleppo in 2016, Soleimani played a prominent role in the offensive that displaced more than 400,000 Syrians and killed thousands.

Many who have been displaced by the violence now live in Idlib, Syria.

An umbrella group for the Syrian opposition said in a statement that they hope Iran’s sectarian crimes in Syria will end with the death of Soleimani. 

"The killing of the terrorist commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard militia, Qassem Soleimani, who led and participated in massacres and the displacement of millions of Syrians marks the end of one of the most prominent war criminals who is responsible for (many) crimes in Syria and the region,” the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces known as Etilaf said.

The statement went on to add: "War criminal Soleimani played a major role in the situation in Syria."

9:38 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Gold, crude oil and other "fear trades" spike

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Most stocks on Wall Street slumped this morning on the news of the US drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. But investments that tend to do well during times when traders are nervous about geopolitical turmoil shot higher.

  • Gold rose more than 1% to about $1,555 an ounce.
  • Bitcoin surged 4% to $7,250.
  • The VIX, a volatility measure often dubbed Wall Street's fear gauge, was up 7%.
  • Crude oil prices rose nearly 4% to above $63 a barrel.
  • Dow oil stocks Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) were each trading higher.
  • Top defense stocks, including Lockheed Martin (LMT), Raytheon (RTN) and Northrop Grumman (NOC), were all up in early trading.

Meanwhile, the CNN Business Fear & Greed Index, which looks at seven indicators of market sentiment, plunged this morning after hitting a record high yesterday.

9:36 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Officials in DC are monitoring events around Iran

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said there are no immediate threats to the area following the developing situation with Iran, but the Metropolitan Police Department and DC Homeland Security are monitoring evolving events.

“While there are no immediate threats to the District of Columbia, we remain vigilant and MPD & HSEMA will remain in close contact with regional and federal partners to monitor evolving events — both at home and abroad. As always, we remind members of the public if they see something, say something by contacting law enforcement of any suspicious activity," Bowser said.

Police departments in New York City and Los Angeles are also monitoring the situation in Iran following the death of Qasem Soleimani.

9:38 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Soleimani will have funerals in Iraq and Iran

From CNN's Yousuf Basil

Thousands of Iranians take to the streets of Tehran on Friday to mourn the death of Soleimani. Credit: Abedin/Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.
Thousands of Iranians take to the streets of Tehran on Friday to mourn the death of Soleimani. Credit: Abedin/Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.

General Qasem Soleimani's body will arrive in Tehran on Saturday, Iran state media reports.

Iranian state-run IRNA news agency also reports that General Soleimani will have a funeral procession in the Shiite holy cities of Karabala and Najaf before his body heads back to Tehran.

9:31 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

US embassies in Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan issue security alerts: "Keep a low profile"

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Protesters burn US flags during a demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, following the airstrike that killed Soleimani on Friday. Credit: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images
Protesters burn US flags during a demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, following the airstrike that killed Soleimani on Friday. Credit: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The US Embassies in Bahrain, Kuwait and Pakistan issued security alerts after the strike.

The Embassy in Pakistan announced it was restricting travel by US government employees “given possible reactions to recent events in Iraq.” 

“US government personnel in Pakistan are required to postpone non-essential official movements and most personal movements,” it said in an alert, which suggested US citizens “keep a low profile” and “avoid crowds.” 

The Embassy in Kuwait said that “out of an abundance of caution, the embassy is increasing its security posture,” but would remain open. 

“We are not aware of specific, credible threats against private US citizens in Kuwait at this time. Nonetheless, this situation serves as a reminder that US citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance, and the Embassy advises US citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times,” the alert said.

The alert also suggested that Americans “keep a low profile” and “have travel documents up to date and easily accessible.”

The embassy in Bahrain also said it was not aware of specific threats to citizens, but warned that “in light of regional events, there is potential for spontaneous demonstrations or unrest to take place in Bahrain over the coming days, and possibly beyond.” 

“We remind US citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. US citizens are therefore urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities,” it said. 

The issuance of these security alerts come as the US Embassy in Baghdad urges US citizens to flee Iraq immediately. 

9:23 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

New York and Los Angeles police departments are monitoring events around Iran

From CNN's Joe Sutton

The New York Police Department has deployed additional resources to sensitive locations across the city out of caution as it continues to monitor the events in Iran and across the region.

"The NYPD continues to closely monitor the events in Iran and across the region for any further developments. While there are no specific or credible threats in New York City, the Department has deployed additional resources to sensitive locations across the city out of an abundance of caution," the NYPD said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Police Department is also monitoring the fallout following the death of Qasem Soleimani.

“While there is no credible threat to Los Angeles, the LAPD is monitoring the events developing in Iran. We will continue to communicate with state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners regarding any significant intel that may develop," the Los Angeles Police Department tweeted.

9:03 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Trump on Solemaini: "He should have been taken out many years ago!"

From CNN's  Betsy Klein

President Trump tweeted from Mar-a-Lago this morning about the death of Qasem Soleimani, claiming that the general "was plotting to kill many more" Americans and he "should have been taken out many years ago."

Trump added that Iranians "are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe."

The White House has issued a lunch lid until 1:45 p.m. ET, meaning we won't see the President before that. 

9:00 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

How the airstrike will affect the Iran deal and Europe

From CNN's Tara John

Anna Walker, director of Europe at the consultancy Control Risk, says the airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani will force the European Union to be "highly reluctant to be drawn into any military confrontation."

"European leaders have reiterated the need for a de-escalation of tensions in the region, and efforts are likely be under way behind the scenes to both craft a coordinated response to what is the first major foreign policy challenge for the new EU leadership and to use diplomatic channels to attempt to reduce the threat of escalation," Walker told CNN via email.

Walker added that Iran has a lot of flexibility about when and where to respond to Soleimani's death. It has previously conducted, directed or planned significant attacks in Europe (such as the 2012 Burgas airport bombing). 

"Europe will want to distance itself from the strike partly to avoid blowback in the EU," Walker added.

"In addition, the strike could fatally undermine European efforts to uphold the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, potentially forcing it into more alignment with the US on sanctions if Iran expands nuclear enrichment activities. Iran’s exit from the deal could trigger the automatic reimplementation of EU and UN sanctions (US sanctions have been reinstated), which may encourage Iran to continue to remain at least partly in the deal, while using other means to respond to US strikes."

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

Iraq Parliament speaker says US strike was "flagrant violation of sovereignty"

From CNN’s Kareem Khader in Baghdad

Iraq Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halboosi condemned the US strike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and the Deputy Head of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. He called it "a flagrant violation of sovereignty, and a violation of international conventions."

"Any security and military operation on Iraqi territory must have the approval of the government," al-Halboosi said in a statement. "We also call on the government in this sensitive circumstance to take the necessary political, legal and security measures to stop such attacks." 

The Iraqi Parliament speaker also acknowledged repercussions for the strike could threaten peace and stability in the region. He called for everyone to “exercise restraint” and avoid turning Iraq into a "battlefield."

“Our condolences go out to the Iraqi people and the people of the Popular Mobilization Organization, as we extend our condolences to the Islamic Republic of Iran for the martyrdom of the guest of Iraq, Hajj Qassim Soleimani, asking God Almighty to shed mercy on the martyrs and bless them and inspire their loved ones patience and solace,” al- Halboosi added in his statement.