A Sea of Mourners in Iran, and New Threats From Both Sides: Live Updates

A Sea of Mourners in Iran, and New Threats From Both Sides: Live Updates

06/01 - 18:41 - Vast crowds thronged the streets of Tehran as a funeral was held for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who was killed in an American drone strike on Friday.

Iran’s supreme leader sheds tears for slain general.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept and offered prayers over the coffin of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani at the funeral in Tehran on Monday, as throngs of people filled the city’s streets to mourn.

General Suleimani was killed by the United States on Friday in Baghdad in a drone strike. American officials said the general had ordered assaults on Americans in Iraq and Syria and was planning a wave of imminent attacks.

Ayatollah Khamenei had a close relationship with the general, who was widely considered to be the second most powerful man in Iran.

The military commander was hailed as a martyr, and his successor swore revenge during the funeral ceremony, while chants of “Death to America” rang out from the crowds in the capital.

State-run news outlets reported that millions had gathered in Tehran, and images showed a sea of mourners, many wearing black and waving the Iranian flag.

“God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger,” said Esmail Ghaani, the Iranian general who will succeed General Suleimani as head of the Quds Force, the foreign expeditionary arm of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “Certainly actions will be taken,” he added.

General Suleimani’s killing has prompted fears of escalating retaliatory actions between Iran and the United States, and of a broader regional conflict. After the attack, Iran said it would no longer abide by a 2015 agreement to suspend uranium production.

Zeinab Suleimani, General Suleimani’s daughter, said in a eulogy that the United States and Israel faced a “dark day.”

“You crazy Trump, the symbol of ignorance, the slave of Zionists, don’t think that the killing of my father will finish everything,” she said.

The general’s funeral was attended by a broad swath of Iranians, including reformers who oppose the government of President Hassan Rouhani but who perceived the killing as an attack on all of Iran.

“I felt like he was our safety umbrella spread above Iran,” said Amir Ali, 22, a university student, of General Suleimani. “I felt safe knowing he was out there.”

The Iraqi government has begun to consider new parameters for the American military in Iraq after lawmakers voted 170-0 on Sunday in favor of expelling United States troops from their country.

The troops will be limited to “training and advising” Iraqi forces, but will not be allowed to move off their bases or to fly in Iraqi airspace while plans are being made for their departure, said Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, the military spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The vote on Sunday was not final and many lawmakers did not attend the session. But Mr. Mahdi drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, leaving little doubt about his support for the expulsion.

Mr. Mahdi met with Matthew Tueller, the American ambassador to Iraq, on Monday, and “stressed the need for joint action to implement the withdrawal,” according to a statement and photo released by Mr. Mahdi’s office. He also emphasized Iraq’s efforts to prevent the current tensions between Iran and the United States from sliding into “open war.”

Mr. Mahdi also made clear that Iraq wanted good relations with “all countries” but that Iraq wanted those relationships to be based on “mutual respect, and preserving its security, stability and national sovereignty.”

The drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani on Friday also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

The attack was viewed by many in Iraq as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty, and the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it had summoned the American ambassador. Iran reacted to Sunday’s vote with congratulatory messages.

But the Iraqi Parliament was divided over the demands from angry citizens to expel American troops. Nearly half of its members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend Sunday’s session and did not vote. In his speech to lawmakers, Mr. Mahdi laid out two possibilities: to either quickly end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq, or to set a timeline for their expulsion.

The measure approved by Parliament did not include a timeline, and only instructed the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq. Officials said no decision had been made about whether any American troops would be able to stay, or under what conditions.

By Monday, there was still no timetable for the troops’ departure and no specifics about whether all American forces would be asked to leave or only some. And while Mr. Mahdi’s rhetoric was tough in his speech to the Iraqi Parliament on Sunday, by late in the evening, after speaking with President Emmanuel Macron of France by phone, his language was more modulated.

In a post on Twitter describing their phone call, Mr. Mahdi suggested that he was leaving the door open to something less than a complete departure.

He said he had agreed with Mr. Macron to “continue to discuss this delicate issue.”

He added that they talked about “the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Iraq in a way that would not damage the battle against ISIS and would preserve the sovereignty of Iraq and keep its relationships with the countries of the international coalition” that is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq.

Those goals would be difficult to achieve without some continued presence by the United States, because other countries’ troops are unlikely to stay in the absence of American military support.

Suleimani may have been emissary in outreach to Saudis.

President Trump and other American officials have said that Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was in the midst of planning attacks on United States forces when he was killed. But the general may have also been working as a go-between in quiet efforts to reduce the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Hostility and competition for influence had grown for years between the two regional rivals, but in recent months, Iran and Saudi Arabia had taken steps toward indirect talks to diffuse the situation.

In an address to the Iraqi Parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq said that he was supposed to meet with General Suleimani on the morning he was killed.

“It was expected that he was carrying a message for me from the Iranian side responding to the Saudi message that we had sent to the Iranian side to reach agreements and breakthroughs important for the situation in Iraq and the region,” Mr. Mahdi said.

The content of the messages was not immediately clear, but Mr. Mahdi’s comments suggested that the drone strike ordered by Mr. Trump may have interrupted a diplomatic back channel aimed at averting conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump doubles down on threat to attack Iran’s cultural sites.

President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his threats to attack Iranian cultural sites and warned of a “major retaliation” if the Iranian government planned tit-for-tat attacks in the aftermath of the killing of a senior military commander.

Mr. Trump defended the drone strike that killed General Suleimani.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr. Trump said in a tweet that the United States had selected 52 Iranian sites, some “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture” to attack in the event of Iranian retaliation.

That prompted the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to say that “targeting cultural sites is a war crime.”

But on Sunday evening, aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida, Mr. Trump did not back down.

“They’re allowed to kill our people,” he said to reporters. “They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of Unesco, met with the Iranian ambassador to the organization on Monday to discuss the current situation, and issued a statement pointing to international agreements that condemn acts of destruction of cultural heritage.

“Ms. Azoulay stressed the universality of cultural and natural heritage as vectors of peace and dialogue between peoples, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve for future generations,” Unesco said in the statement.

Two Iranian leaders, once viewed as moderates, unleash fiery rhetoric

Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, and foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, were once seen as relative moderates.

Mr. Rouhani, for example, once advocated diplomacy and integration with the West. Mr. Zarif was the Iranian most closely associated with the negotiation of the 2015 deal that limited Iran’s nuclear program.

But on Monday, each offered a fiery response to the United States in light of General Suleimani’s killing.

“What the US has accomplished in its terrorist assassination of anti-ISIS heroes is to unleash global anti-US fury and a worldwide rancor — on a scale not seen in recent memory,” Mr. Zarif said in a tweet. “End of malign U.S. presence in West Asia has begun.”

Mr. Rouhani said in a tweet on Monday that “those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290,” in a reference to the number of people killed when an Iranian passenger plane was shot down by an American warship in the Persian Gulf in 1988.

The comparison suggested that if Mr. Trump planned to attack 52 targets, one for each American hostage held by Iran in the American embassy from 1979 to 1980, Iran had an even larger number of victims to commemorate.

“Never threaten the Iranian nation,” Mr. Rouhani said.

Democrats press Trump to declassify strike notification.

Two top Senate Democrats urged President Trump early Monday to declassify the document that the administration sent to Congress formally giving notice of the airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. It is unusual for an administration to classify the entirety of such a notification, and Democrats upbraided the document as insufficient. The notification to Congress is required by law.

In a joint statement, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader; and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was “critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner.”

“An entirely classified notification is simply not appropriate in a democratic society, and there appears to be no legitimate justification for classifying this notification,” they said.

The House is expected to vote later this week on a resolution invoking the War Powers Act that would curtail the president’s ability to authorize a strike against Iran without Congress’s approval. The Senate could vote on similar legislation as soon as mid-January.

Saudi Arabia to send envoy to Washington.

Saudi Arabia is scrambling to ease tensions in the Middle East amid fears that Iran could retaliate for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani with strikes against Riyadh and other American allies in the region.

Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, is sending his younger brother, Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman, to Washington in the coming days to urge restraint, the Saudi news media has reported.

“We are very keen that the situation in the region doesn’t escalate any further,” the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, told reporters in Riyadh on Monday. “It’s certainly a very dangerous moment, and we have to be conscious of the risks and dangers, not just to the region but to wider global security, and therefore we hope that all actors take all the steps necessary to prevent any further escalation and any provocation.”

While the Saudi leadership considers Iran its staunchest regional enemy, a drone and missile attack on Saudi oil processing plants in September that the United States accused Iran of orchestrating exposed the kingdom’s vulnerability — and raised questions about President Trump’s willingness to defend it.

The United States Embassy in Riyadh this week warned Americans in the kingdom of “the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks,” adding that Americans working near military bases and oil facilities were “at heightened risk of attack.”

Iran pledges to restart uranium enrichment.

The Iranian government said it would no longer abide by a commitment it made under a 2015 nuclear deal that limited its enrichment of uranium.

The decision to lift all restrictions on the production of nuclear fuel spelled the effective end of the nuclear deal, experts said, though Iran left open the possibility that it would return to the limits if sanctions were lifted.

“It’s finished. If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit in Washington.

The announcement came after the Iranian Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday after General Suleimani’s assassination.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will end its final limitations in the nuclear deal, meaning the limitation in the number of centrifuges,” the government said in a statement. “Therefore Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production including enrichment capacity and percentage and number of enriched uranium and research and expansion.”

The announcement followed several steps by Iran to move away from the terms of the agreement, nearly two years after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States. The other parties to the deal included Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

None except the United States have left the agreement, which was a key foreign policy achievement of former President Barack Obama. Since that renunciation, the Trump administration has imposed severe sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.

The nuclear agreement ended some economic sanctions on Iran in return for its verifiable pledge to use nuclear power peacefully.

Iran’s statement on Sunday did not include details about its enrichment ambitions. And the country did not say that it was expelling the inspectors who monitor its nuclear program.

President Trump seemed to respond to the announcement on Monday with an all-caps post on Twitter. 

A senior adviser to President Trump on Monday said that the president held open the possibility of renegotiating a nuclear deal with Iran.

“He said he’s open to meet if Iran wants to start behaving like a normal country,” Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s White House counselor, told reporters.

The European parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, as well as China and Russia, also signatories to the deal, had struggled to preserve the agreement as tensions between the United States and Iran worsened.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a daily news briefing that there was still hope for the nuclear deal. He noted that Tehran had said it would continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iranian activities under the agreement, and that it could return to the pact under the right conditions.

“We believe that although Iran has been compelled to reduce adherence owing to external factors, it has also demonstrated restraint,” Mr. Geng said.

Europe scrambles to preserve the nuclear deal.

In a joint statement on Sunday night, Britain, France and Germany called on Iran to refrain from violence and to return to “full compliance with its commitments” under the 2015 nuclear agreement, which Tehran has seemed to all but have abandoned.

The statement followed Iran’s announcement that day that it would no longer abide by the limits to uranium enrichment set out in the deal, a move that seemed to finally kill off the agreement after months during which Tehran had carefully breached less significant limits.

President Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal in 2018.

The European statement seemed somewhat forlorn, since its efforts to preserve the deal have been weak, hamstrung in part by a desire to maintain good relations with Washington. The statement did not support the drone strike on the Iranian general but did acknowledge American concerns, saying that, “we have condemned the recent attacks’’ on coalition forces in Iraq and “are gravely concerned by the negative role played by Iran in the region.’’

The statement called for “de-escalation” of tensions from all parties and reaffirmed the Europeans’ determination “to continuing the fight against Islamic State, which remains a priority.’’ And it called on Iraq “to continue to supply the necessary support to the coalition’’ — in other words, to not expel American and NATO troops.

The secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, called an emergency meeting of the alliance’s advisers on Monday afternoon. During a news conference following the meeting Mr. Stoltenberg said NATO would be suspending training operations on the ground in Iraq.

“At our meeting today, Allies expressed their strong support for the fight against ISIS and for the NATO mission in Iraq,” he said. “In everything that we do, the safety of our personnel is paramount. As such, we have temporarily suspended our training on the ground.”

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union foreign policy chief, posted on Twitter that while the bloc regretted Iran’s announcement on the deal, it would wait for independent verification from the international nuclear monitoring group to determine what actions would be taken.

Peter Stano, his spokesman, said during a news briefing in Brussels said that de-escalation was the goal.

“It’s in our interest as Europeans to maintain this agreement,” Mr. Stano said.

On Monday, Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, said that the Europeans would talk to Iran and planned to come up with a coordinated response.

“This could be the first step toward the end of this agreement, which would be a great loss,” Mr. Maas told a German radio station. “And so we will weigh things up very, very responsibly.”

Russian officials have been sharply critical of the targeted killing in Iraq but have not otherwise intimated how the Kremlin might respond, or whether Moscow, which has longstanding ties with Tehran, might play a mediating role.

President Vladimir V. Putin invited Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to visit Moscow on Saturday to discuss the strike, among other issues, the Kremlin announced.

Oil prices surge to nearly $70 a barrel.

Oil prices surged and stock markets in Asia fell on Monday morning, as the impact of General Suleimani’s death ricocheted around the world.

The price of Brent oil, the international benchmark, jumped above $70 in futures trading as markets digested a steady flow of news over the weekend. It fell back below that level, to $69.92 a barrel, when markets opened in Europe, though the price was still about 5 percent higher than before the killing last week.

The sudden escalation in tensions in a region that supplies much of the world’s petroleum has roiled oil markets. The West Texas Intermediate, the American oil benchmark, rose 1.9 percent to $64.22 a barrel in futures trading.

Analysts at Capital Economics have warned that the price of oil could spike to $150 a barrel if the bellicose rhetoric between the two countries turned into action.

“The price of oil would soar in the event of full-blown military conflict in the Middle East,” said Alexander Kozul-Wright, a commodities economist at Capital Economics.

Johnson faces first foreign policy crisis of post-Brexit era.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, fresh from winning a mandate to take Britain out of the European Union, faces a particularly vexing challenge in dealing with the escalation between the United States and Iran.

In the first foreign policy crisis of the post-Brexit era, London is caught between its traditional alliance with Washington — one that Mr. Johnson wants to deepen further with a trade agreement — and the new relationship with Europe.

In his first statement on President Trump’s decision to strike the general, Mr. Johnson took pains to emphasize the threat posed by the Iranian military leader and said, “We will not lament his death.” But Mr. Johnson also called on all sides to avoid aggravating the situation, echoing the language used by the French and German governments.

Mr. Johnson suggested he wanted to play a mediating role and noted that he had spoken to Mr. Trump, as well as to President Emmanuel Macron of France and to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. The European governments have been more circumspect in their reactions to the American strike, with the Germans criticizing Mr. Trump’s threat to impose sanctions on Iraq if Baghdad were to expel American troops from bases in the country.

Mr. Johnson was said to be upset that Mr. Trump had not notified him of the strike in advance, but he can ill afford a falling out with the president, given Britain’s need to initiate trade talks with Washington

In Israel, and around the world, worries over escalating tension

The United States Embassy in Israel said in a security alert on Monday that tension in the Middle East could result in rocket attacks or other dangerous situations for Americans who are abroad.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy strongly encourages U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, as security incidents, including rocket fire, often take place without warning,” the embassy said.

The embassy said people should keep a low profile, be aware of their surroundings and monitor local media, among other suggestions.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, said in a statement on Monday that “Geopolitical tensions are at their highest level this century.”

“Even nuclear non-proliferation can no longer be taken for granted,” he said. “This cauldron of tensions is leading more and more countries to take unpredicted decisions with unpredictable consequences and a profound risk of miscalculation.”

He said he was urging world leaders to stop the escalation.

Hackers target a U.S. government website, vowing revenge for Suleimani’s death

A United States government website was hacked over the weekend to display messages vowing revenge for General Suleimani’s death and a doctored photograph of President Trump being punched in the jaw.

It was not immediately clear if the attack on the website of the Federal Depository Library Program had come from Iran. But the intrusion was consistent with the work of low-level Iranian hackers who could be acting independently, experts said.

A security analysis by United States officials found that “none of the site’s data was compromised.”

James A. Lewis, a former government official and cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said hackers probably targeted the first agency they could find “that had weak security.”

He said the hack was probably not conducted by Iran’s more sophisticated team but instead recalled a “low-budget hack of the sort Iran’s ‘patriot hackers’ are known for, including the cheesy imagery.”

Bigger agencies have better defenses and are likely to be safe, Mr. Lewis said.

Reporting was contributed by Alissa J. Rubin, Ben Hubbard, Russell Goldman, Alexandra Stevenson, Farnaz Fassihi, Christopher Buckley, Megan Specia, Steven Erlanger, Melissa Eddy, Mark Landler, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Vivian Yee, David D. Kirkpatrick, Catie Edmondson, Andrew Kramer, Edward Wong, Mihir Zaveri and Eileen Sullivan.

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