- Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images
- A host of world leaders, including from Russia, Turkey, and several European countries, condemned the US drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the powerful leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, late Thursday.
- Iranian leaders promised “forceful revenge” against the US, and Iraqi leaders said the strike violated the country’s sovereignty and international laws.
- The United Nations’ special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings said the attack “most likely” violated international law in part because the US hadn’t faced an “imminent threat” and the strike killed at least six other people.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long treated Iran as an existential threat to Israel, praised President Donald Trump’s move.
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A host of world leaders, including from Russia, Turkey, and several European countries, condemned the US drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as he left Baghdad International Airport late Thursday.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long treated Iran as an existential threat to Israel, praised President Donald Trump’s move.
Iran-backed protesters surrounded and vandalized the US Embassy in Baghdad this week following US airstrikes in Iraq that killed about two dozen members of an Iran-backed militia. Those airstrikes were retaliation for the killing of an American civilian contractor in Kirkuk, Iraq, a few days before.
Agnès Callamard, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, condemned Thursday’s attack, arguing that it “most likely” violated international law in part because the US hadn’t faced an “imminent threat” and the strike killed at least six other people.
“Outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones or other means for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal,” Callamard said.
Soleimani was the key architect of Iran’s military and intelligence actions over the past two decades, and the US has accused him of having a hand in the deaths of hundreds of US service members. He was widely viewed as a hero among Iranians, and his death is a significant blow to the country.
Iranian leaders reacted by promising “forceful revenge” against the US.
“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement.
‘An extremely dangerous escalation’
European leaders have long opposed Trump’s escalation of tensions with Iran, beginning with his decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement negotiated under President Barack Obama, and have urged the US to exercise maximum restraint with regard to Iran.
On Friday morning, several European leaders called for de-escalation.
“The cycle of violence, provocations and retaliations which we have witnessed in Iraq over the past few weeks has to stop,” the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said in a statement. “Further escalation must be avoided at all cost.”
Federica Mogherini, the former European high representative for foreign and security policy, called the US strike “an extremely dangerous escalation.”
The German government called for diplomacy to avoid a “dangerous escalation” but said the US strike was in response to “a series of military provocations for which Iran is responsible.”
The French minister for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, told reporters on Friday, “We have woken up to a more dangerous world.”
Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested that the US’s closest allies weren’t properly consulted on its dramatic move.
“I’ve long believed that the purpose of having allies is that we can surprise our enemies and not each other, and it’s been a pattern, sadly, which has been a bit of a shame, that the US administration of late has not shared with us and that is a matter of concern,” Tugendhat told reporters Friday. “I would urge the US administration to share much more closely with allies, particularly those who are fighting alongside in the region, including us.”
Iraqi leaders condemned the US strike, calling it a violation of the country’s sovereignty and of international laws.
“Any security and military operation on Iraqi territory must have the approval of the government,” Iraq Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi 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.”
Russian and Turkish leaders also criticized the attack.
“The short-sighted acts of the US, the assassination of General Soleimani, lead to a sharp escalation of the military-political situation in the Middle East region and serious negative consequences for the entire international security system,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement, adding that Soleimani was key in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.
NEW — First comments from Turkey on the death of #Soleimani
Turkish Foreign Ministry:
• Concerned by the increased tensions between Iran/US
• The US air op against the Soleimani will exercabate distrust and instability in the region
• We call on all sides to show restraint
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) January 3, 2020
Netanyahu offered a message of support for Trump, saying the US president “deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the U.S. had the right to defend itself by killing senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and president Donald Trump "deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively" following the airstrike in Baghdad
— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) January 3, 2020
A partisan response at home
In the US, the reaction from lawmakers was deeply partisan.
Many Republicans defended Trump’s move.
“Gen. Soleimani has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans, and was actively plotting more,” GOP Sen. Ben Sasse tweeted. “This commander-in-chief – any C-in-C. – has an obligation to defend America by killing this bastard.”
Meanwhile, Democrats condemned the strike as a dangerous escalation of tensions between the US and Iran that bypassed Congress.
“We cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday. “Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence.”