The United States’ assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 2 has drawn sharp international condemnation, with critics warning it moved the U.S. and Iran closer to war. On Monday, Jan. 6, as many as one million people mourned Soleimani’s killing in Iran.
The United States Defense Department said Soleimani was killed as a defensive action taken “at the direction of the President,” and alleged he was “actively developing” plans to attack Americans in the region. The White House has defended its actions but failed to provide any evidence, prompting comparisons to the claims of weapons of mass destruction that were used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the killing: “We made the right decision to take out this terrorist. We watched him—we watched him continue to actively build out for what was going to be a significant attack. That’s what we believed and we made the right decision.”
On Sunday, Pompeo claimed on CNN that the U.S.’s assassination of Soleimani would be celebrated in Iraq.
“I saw there was dancing in the streets in parts of Iraq,” he said. “We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq, but in Iran, will view the American action last night as giving them freedom, freedom to have the opportunity for success and prosperity for their nations.”
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets of Iraq in protest. Many, including opponents of Soleimani, have expressed anger at Washington for killing him on Iraqi soil and potentially dragging their beleaguered country into another conflict.
The Iraqi parliament voted on Jan. 5 to order the U.S. to withdraw troops from the country, prompting the U.S. to threaten renewed sanctions against the country. In the 1990s U.S. sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted an image of the American flag to announce Soleimani’s assassination, and has doubled down on threats to bomb 52 locations if Iran retaliates, including Iranian cultural sites, which would be a war crime under international law.
Trump said he wouldn’t be changing his practice of announcing policy decisions through his Twitter account, tweeting out “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”
These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020
On Jan. 5, Iran announced it would not limit itself to the restrictions imposed by the historic 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted that Iran will continue cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Trump administration withdrew from the accord in May 2018 and imposed harsh sanctions claiming Iran had violated terms of the deal, but UN nuclear watchdogs reported Iran was in compliance.
On Jan. 5, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will introduce and vote on a war powers resolution this week to limit President Donald Trump’s military actions regarding Iran. Senator Tim Kaine will introduce a parallel war powers resolution in the Senate.
Over the weekend, over 60 U.S. and Iranian nationals were detained and interrogated at the U.S.–Canada border, according to the Council of American Islamic Relations.
Protests were held in the streets of cities like New York and Washington over the weekend to demand U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, and against the possible war on Iran.
Answer Coalition Member Eugene Puryear told Reuters, “The strike on, and the assassination really, of Major General Qassem Soleimani was designed to box in Iran, to try to create more of war and danger; a drastic escalation that could spill over into many countries after the wake of 25 years following the 2003 invasion that’s been so destructive, certainly in the Middle East, but also for many people here in the United States.”
This story will be updated.