Tensions between US and Iran continue to escalate after US airstrike kills Qasem Soleimani

By Julia Hollingsworth, Fernando Alfonso III, Ivana Kottasová and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT) January 5, 2020
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12:31 p.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Rocket strikes Baghdad's Green Zone

From CNN’s Ingrid Formanek 

At least one rocket has impacted Baghdad’s Green Zone, an Iraqi security official told CNN, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Green Zone contains the parliament, ministries and foreign embassies, including that of the US. Some of the Green Zone is protected by barriers.

11:53 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

French president says escalation not inevitable after call with Iraqi president

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Vasco Cotovio

Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images
Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron says escalation of tensions in the Middle East is not inevitable and calls on all with a presence in the region to respect Iraq’s sovereignty, the region’s stability and to focus on the fight against ISIS. 

“The escalation of tensions in the Middle-East isn’t inevitable,” Macron tweeted on Saturday. “France has two priorities that I share with all leaders involved and that I’m in touch with: Iraq’s sovereignty and security, as well as the region’s stability; the fight against Daesh terrorism.”

“Nothing should distract us from these objectives,” he also said.

The French president’s tweet was posted after he held phone conversations with the Iraqi President Barham Salih and with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. 

Macron “reiterated his commitment to the security and sovereignty of Iraq,” in his call with Saleh, according to a readout of the conversation issued by the French Presidency,

“The two presidents agreed to remain in close contact to avoid further escalation of tensions and to act for the stability of Iraq and the region as a whole,” the readout added. 

In his conversation with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the French and the Emirati leader “shared their concern over the situation in Iraq and agreed to act together with all stakeholders to avoid a dangerous escalation of tensions in the region,” according to a readout from the call published by the Élysée.

1:32 p.m. ET, January 4, 2020

US military does not expect to conduct additional strikes as officials assess Iran’s next step

From CNN's Barbara Starr 

The US military does not expect to conduct additional strikes against Iranian backed groups in Iraq or other locations unless the US was to come under attack, according to a US official directly familiar with the latest information.

But that said, there is currently intense discussion inside US military and intelligence agencies to assess whether Iran might be preparing some type of retaliatory strikes in the next few days or may wait for some time. 

There are indications that Iran has ramped up the readiness of its short and medium range ballistic missile force inside Iran, the official said since the death of General Qasem Soleimani. While that does not mean a strike by Iran is imminent, the US is conducting intense surveillance by satellite and other means to determine how soon missiles, which are liquid fueled, might be ready.

There is division in US circles over whether Iran will quickly launch a retaliation or wait for some time.

“There are conflicting views,” the official said. But US military defenses are ready, according to the official. The US would not likely launch pre-emptive strikes against Iranian missile sites inside the country unless there was compelling evidence they were ready to fire. 

What could happen next: It’s now expected that it will be Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei making any final decision to order a potential strike against the US.

If the US gets intelligence confirming that he has ordered an attack, it could mean President Trump would then have to decide if he wants to take pre-emptive action. With the death of Soleimani, it’s less clear where the Supreme Leader is getting military advice, which is complicating the US intelligence picture.

11:08 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Pompeo tweets about discussing Soleimani strike with Iraqi President

From CNN's Kevin Bohn

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the US drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani with Iraq's President Barham Salih, according to a tweet from Pompeo. 

“Discussed with Iraqi President (Barham) Salih @realDonaldTrump’s decision to take defensive action to protect US personnel and interests abroad, and I reaffirmed that the U.S. remains committed to de-escalation,” Pompeo tweeted today.

Pompeo spoke with Salih on Friday, the State Department said. That was one of at least 12 calls he held on Friday. He also talked with Speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives Mohamed al-Halbousi. He also spoke with Kurdistan Regional Government’s Prime Minister Massoud Barzani, in addition to counterparts throughout Europe and Asia.

The headline and content of this post have been updated to clarify that Pompeo spoke to Salih on Friday. The State Department confirmed Pompeo’s Saturday tweet referred to Friday’s call. 

9:21 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Russian foreign minister says US actions violated international law

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed condolences in connection with the killing of Qasem Soleimani and said the US strike violated international laws in a Saturday phone call with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, according to a readout posted by the Russian ministry. 

The phone call was initiated by the Iranian side. 

“Sergey Lavrov expressed his condolences with regards to the assassination the commander of IRGC’s Quds Special Forces Qasem Soleimani by US in Baghdad,” the statement reads.

“Both ministers have emphasized that US actions are in gross violation of fundamental international laws and do not contribute to finding solutions to the complex problems that have accumulated in the Middle East, but lead to a new round of escalation of tensions in the region.”

Some context: On Friday, Lavrov said in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the US act “deserves condemnation” and urged Washington “to abandon illegal power methods to achieve its goals on the international arena.”

8:59 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

France, Germany and China call on Iran to preserve nuclear deal and not violate it 

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad 

Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images
Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

France, Germany and China have called on Iran to preserve the nuclear deal and to avoid any measure that would violate it, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement today after a phone call with his counterparts.

Le Drian spoke to Germany’s Heiko Maas and China’s Wang Yi in separate phone calls on Saturday.

The French Foreign Minister said France and Germany “fully shared the central objective of de-escalation and preservation of the Vienna accord [JCPOA]”. 

Le Drian also spoke of a “great convergence” between China and France to reinforce efforts towards de-escalation. He said both countries agreed Iraq’s stability and sovereignty should be preserved and called on Iran to “avoid any measure that would violate the Vienna accord.”

Some background: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the nuclear deal, was reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015. France, Germany and China are all parties to the deal, along with Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The United States announced its withdrawal on May 8, 2018.

8:44 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Iranian supreme leader to Soleimani's daughter: “Everyone is bereaved and grateful to your father"

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited Qasem Soleimani's daughter following the death of her father Friday in a US airstrike.

In a tweet today, Khamenei shared his condolences.

“Everyone is bereaved & grateful to your father. This gratitude is due to his great sincerity, since hearts are in God’s hands. Without sincerity, ppl’s hearts wouldn’t have been with him like this. May God bestow His blessings on all of us," the tweet said.

Khamenei's tweet addressing Soleimani's daughter continued: “You saw people in many cities come out in numbers, with devotion. Wait to see his funeral. These blessings are before us to see the value of martyrdom. What a blessing for Hajj Qasem. He achieved his dream."

8:38 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

Russia's foreign minister offers condolences to Iran following Soleimani's death

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov called Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and offered him his condolences on the death of Qasem Soleimani, according to a tweet sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Lavrov also discussed the latest regional and international developments with Zarif since Soleimani's death, the tweet posted today says. 

8:31 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020

NATO suspends activities in Iraq

By CNN's Arnaud Siad

(File photo) NATO headquarters
(File photo) NATO headquarters Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

NATO is “temporarily” suspending its training activities in Iraq following the killing of Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, the alliance's acting spokesman Dylan White told CNN on Saturday.

White said that while training was suspended, “the mission is continuing.” He added that the safety of NATO’s personnel in Iraq was “paramount.”

NATO Mission Iraq consists of several hundred personnel and at the request of the Iraqi government is “helping strengthen the Iraqi forces and prevent the return of ISIS,” according to a NATO statement.