One of Iran’s top military commanders has been killed by US forces, resulting in an unexpected escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran.
On Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed that Qassem Soleimani, who leads Iran’s elite Quds force was killed in what it described as ‘defensive action.’ The 62-year old was killed at Baghdad Airport in Iraq by a US airstrike which was ordered by US President Donald Trump. The Pentagon said in a statement;
“At the direction of the president, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization”
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”
The UK Government has “urged all parties to de-escalate” – Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK “recognised the aggressive threat” Gen Soleimani posed, but “further conflict is in none of our interests”. It is currently unknown whether UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was made aware of the strike before it happened.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn described the move by the US as an “extremely serious and dangerous escalation”. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has called on the UK government to “work with colleagues in the US to counter Trump’s reckless and dangerous foreign policy”. Labour MP Stella Creasy has said that Parliament should be recalled in order to allow an urgent statement to be made to MPs from either the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary.
Following the attack, US President Donald Trump tweeted the US flag. The attack came after the attack by Iran-backed militias on the US Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve. The United States embassy in Baghdad has now called on all its citizens to leave Iraq immediately.
According to reports by Politico, some US officials, including some members of the Trump administration were ‘astonished’ by the killing, with one official saying “I can’t believe it” and another saying “We need to be prepared that we’re now at war”.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has vowed “severe revenge” against the United States and he has called for three days of national mourning. He said, “vengeance is in store for the criminals who stained their unclean hands with his blood and that of other martyrs in the incident last night.”
The attack has also seen oil prices surge as traders fear for the heightened risk of conflict.
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice for Iran, advising all British Nationals to “avoid any rallies, marches, or processions, and follow the instructions of the local authorities.”
The phrases “WWIII” and “Iraq” have been trending following the attack.