The killing of Iraq’s powerful Shiite Hashd Shaabi militia deputy leader, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, and high-ranking Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani has sparked World War III fears.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports both the Iraq’s powerful Shiite Hashd Shaabi militia deputy leader, and high-ranking Iranian General were killed in an attack near Baghdad airport.
The Iran-backed Hashd Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), said they were killed in a U.S. strike targeting their vehicle on the Baghdad International Airport road.
Soleimani is the Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, a unit in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRCG).
Their deaths are the latest escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, coming after thousands of supporters of the Shiite militia broke into the U.S. embassy compound in central Baghdad on Tuesday.
Protesters set fire to one of the gates of walls around the embassy buildings and camped outside until the next day.
The two days of protests were triggered by U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday that targeted the Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
The U.S. airstrikes killed at least 25 militiamen.
Kataib Hezbollah, a part of the Hashd Shaabi umbrella group, had been blamed for an attack last week that killed a US citizen.
Loud explosions were heard near the airport early Friday, which Iraqi security said was three Katyusha rockets falling down in the vicinity killing several people and leaving two vehicles burnt.
Shortly after, the militia said five of its members were killed in the attack, including Mohammed Reda al-Jaberi, who was the group’s head of the public relations and protocol officer.
The U.S. killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a “defensive action,” the Pentagon said.
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” the Pentagon statement says.
The Pentagon says Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” the statement continues.
The U.S. also held Soleimani and his Quds Force responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and said he “orchestrated” a rocket attack on Dec. 27, which killed an American.
The development sparked World War III reactions on Twitter.
BREAKING: US bombs Iran & WW3 looks likely. Boris is still holidaying in Mustique while Corbyn condemns the recklessness of Trump.
NOTE: Must think of a way to blame Corbyn for this mess on tonight's BBC report! We can't jeopardise a US post-Brexit trade deal, can we? #WorldWar3
— Laura Kuenssberg is back! ᵖᵃʳᵒᵈʸ (@LKTranslator) January 3, 2020
How Americans are making jokes about Trump, Iran and world war 3 is hilarious. I hope it will remain a joke, we don't need #WWIII, we need to end terrorism and poverty in the world.
— Zaddy Ajala (@UNCLE_AJALA) January 3, 2020
For the record, we think #WWIII is a bad idea.
— Franz Ferdinand (@Franz_Ferdinand) January 3, 2020
The world seems a bit chaotic this morning, what with the US and Iran, Iraq, ISIS trending and #WWIII apparently on the brink.
So in the meantime, here's some cute baby animals; pic.twitter.com/5Hi1TxYr3r
— liam (@AddickLiam) January 3, 2020
— Kirsty (@kkirstylouise) January 3, 2020
Each of these flags represents a country the US has bombed since WW2.
(Duplicates represent multiple bombing campaigns against same country.) #WorldWar3
— RD Hale🌹 (@SkyeCity_) January 3, 2020
— ✌Dudemeister 😷 (@sibonise101) January 3, 2020
China calls for restraint after U.S. killing of Iranian general
China has called for restraint in the wake of escalating tensions over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
“We urge all parties concerned, especially the U.S., to maintain calm and restraint, to avoid tensions, and to avoid further escalations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday in Beijing.
China believes peace and stability must be maintained in the Middle East region, Geng said.
“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations and advocates that all parties should earnestly abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.
“And also to comply with the basic norms of international relations and that Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected,” he added.
Similarly, the State Department is telling U.S. citizens to leave Iraq as soon as possible.
“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately,” it says in a security alert, following a U.S. strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
“U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.”
Consular operations at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad were suspended earlier this week following attacks on the building by supporters of an Iranian-backed militia.
Also, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has condemned the deadly U.S. airstrike on a powerful Iranian general, calling it a “provocative and disproportionate” act.
“Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America – and the world – cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return,” the senior Democrat said in a statement.
She said Congress was not consulted before President Donald Trump ordered the attack on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and demanded that lawmakers be “immediately briefed” on the situation.
President Hassan Rowhani says Iran will “avenge” the killing of top commander Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike.
“Undoubtedly, Iran and other independent states will avenge this terrible crime by the U.S.,” Rowhani wrote in a letter posted on his official website.
“This act is another dark stain on the U.S.,” he said.
The Pentagon said Trump ordered the strike at Baghdad’s airport that killed Soleimani, who led Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Israel puts military on alert after U.S. killing of Iranian commander
Israel put its military on heightened alert on Friday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip abroad after the U.S. killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani drew promises of revenge from Iran.
Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East and Iran’s top regional foe, has not publicly responded to the death of Quds Force chief Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the U.S. air strike in Baghdad.
But Netanyahu’s office confirmed that he would return home early from Greece.
Israel’s Army Radio said the military was on heightened alert and Defence Minister Naftali Bennett met military and intelligence chiefs for a “situational assessment”.
Members of Netanyahu’s security cabinet have been asked not to comment on the high-profile killings, which Israeli media interpreted as a bid to stave off retaliation from Iran’s proxies and allies in the region.
These include the Tehran-backed Lebanese movement Hezbollah, and the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, said the cabinet “received an instruction not to be interviewed on this subject” when asked about the commanders’ deaths.
Dana Weiss, chief political analyst for Israel’s Channel 12 news, said: “The goal is clear: not to unnecessarily complicate Israel and keep the message as unified as possible.”
But Yair Lapid, an opposition lawmaker, congratulated U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter for killing those responsible for “murderous terrorist acts from Damascus to Buenos Aires” and that Soleimani’s “blood is forfeit”.
The Israeli Military spokesman, Avichay Adraee, said the Mount Hermon ski resort, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights close to the fortified frontier with Syria, had been closed “following an assessment of the situation”.
“There are no further instructions to the residents of the Golan Heights area and routine activities continue as normal,” he added.
Israel has long regarded Soleimani as a major threat.
In August 2018, the military said it had foiled a Quds Force attack, administered by Soleimani, involving multiple drones from Syria.
And Israel accused him of leading Quds Force efforts to establish a precision-guided missiles program for Hezbollah.
In Gaza, Hamas – which has long enjoyed financial and military support from Tehran – condemned Soleimani’s killing and sent its “dearest condolences” to Iran.
Gaza-based Hamas official Bassem Naim wrote on Twitter that the assassination “opens the doors of the region to all possibilities, except calm & stability. USA bears the responsibility for that”.
The Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, also based in Gaza, praised Soleimani as a leader “who always brought horror into the hearts of America and Israel”.
“The alliance of resistance will not be defeated, will not be broken and its integrity will become stronger in confronting the Zionist-American project,” Abu Hamza, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, said on Twitter.
Egypt condemns attack on U.S. embassy in Baghdad
Egypt, on Friday denounced protesters’ attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
According to the statement, Egypt voiced its deep concerns over the assault, stressing that the attack violates international conventions.
It called for protection of diplomatic buildings, urging all parties in Iraq to distance themselves from any international and regional tensions that could negatively affect the country’s security and stability.
Earlier, the U.S. embassy suspended public consular services until further notice, as a result of an attack by the Iranian-backed protesters on the diplomatic compound.
On Friday, Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, was killed in a U.S. air strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport.
France to work for Middle East stability after U.S. strike – Minister
France’s priority is to stabilize the Middle East, French Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said on Friday after a U.S. air strike killed Iran’s Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
“What is happening is what we feared: tensions between the United States and Iran are increasing,” Montchalin told RTL radio. “The priority is to stabilize the region.”
The minister said top French officials would make high-level contacts with senior players in the region.
Asian shares stumble, oil, gold up after U.S. strikes in Iraq
Asian shares slipped on Friday, erasing early gains, while gold shone and oil prices spiked after U.S. air strikes in Iraq killed a top Iranian commander, heightening geopolitical tensions.
Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were killed early on Friday in a U.S. air strike on their convoy at Baghdad airport, prompting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to vow harsh revenge.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS had touched its highest point since June 15, 2018, in early trade, but fell after reports of the air strike emerged. It was last down 0.16 per cent.
European shares were set to follow their Asian counterparts lower.
Pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures STXEc1 shed 0.66 per cent to 3,757, German DAX futures FDXc1 were down 0.6 per cent to 13,303.5 and FTSE futures FFIc1 gave up 0.42 per cent to 7,514.
China’s CSI300 index, one of the world’s best-performing indexes last year, struggled to stay in positive territory but was last down about 0.2 per cent.
Australian shares finished up 0.64 per cent, but off earlier highs.
“It remains very unclear exactly what impact (the U.S. strikes) could have on the equity market,” said Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank.
“It is significant that one of Iran’s top military generals was reported to have been taken out … but it all hinges on what Iran does in terms of retaliation,” he said.
Middle Eastern tensions upset a rally for the MSCI index, which finished at its highest close in more than 18 months on Thursday.
It had been lifted by a New Year’s Day announcement from China’s central bank that it would cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, releasing around 800 billion yuan (114.87 billion dollars).
Against the backdrop of a thaw in trade tensions between the United States and China, global markets had seen renewed appetite for risk assets.
“You have from both a policy and trade perspective a favourable framework for … risk assets for the weeks to come,” said Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.
“The issue in our view, and that is the central scenario, is beyond these few weeks – where could we see a further correction?” he said, noting that the United States is unlikely to enjoy further fiscal stimulus before the presidential election in November.
Shares had received further support from data on Thursday showing factory activity in China continued to grow at a solid pace in December, and that business confidence improved.
Markets in Japan remain closed for a national holiday. Overnight, Wall Street’s major indexes notched record highs in their first session of the decade.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 1.16 per cent to 28,868.8.
The SP 500 .SPX gained 0.84 per cent to 3,257.85 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 1.33 per cent to 9,092.19.
But U.S. stock futures pointed to a grim day on Friday after the air strikes, with SP e-minis ESc1 shedding 0.84 per cent.
U.S. Treasury futures also rose TYc1 reflecting an implied yield of 1.74 per cent.
While equity markets turned lower, oil prices surged on news of Soleimani’s death, which ramped up supply worries as the geopolitical situation deteriorated.
The global benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 shot 2.97 per cent higher to 68.22 dollars per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude CLc1 jumped 2.81 per cent to 62.90 dollars per barrel.
The strikes came after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday there were indications Iran or forces it backs may be planning additional attacks after Iranian-backed demonstrators hurled rocks at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
In currency markets, the dollar weakened as investors snapped up safe-haven yen. The greenback fell 0.42 per cent against the Japanese currency to 108.11 Japanese yuan.
The dollar was little changed against the euro at 1.1167 dollar.
The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the dollar against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.04 per cent at 96.808.
The U.S. strikes in Iraq and recent dollar weakness combined to burnish the value of gold, driving the precious metal 0.84 per cent higher on the spot market XAU= to 1,541.73 dollars per ounce, around four-month highs.
Brent jumps almost $3 after U.S. air strike on Baghdad airport
Brent crude futures jumped nearly three dollars on Friday after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad killed top Iranian and Iraqi military commanders, sparking concerns of disruption to Middle East oil supplies.
Brent crude futures LCOc1 hit an intraday high of 69.16 dollars a barrel, their highest since Sept. 17, before easing to 68.42 dollars, up 2.17 dollars or 3.28 per cent by 0806 GMT.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were up 1.85 dollar or 3.04 per cent at 63.03 dollars a barrel, having earlier spiked to 63.84 dollars a barrel, their highest since May 1, 2019.
“The supply side risks remain elevated in the Middle East and we could see tensions continue to elevate between the U.S. and Iran-backed militia in Iraq,” said Edward Moya, analyst at brokerage OANDA, in an e-mail to Reuters.
An air strike at the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia spokesman said.
The killings marked an escalation in the regional “shadow war” between Iran and the United States and sparked Iranian calls for revenge and preparation for further conflict in Iraq.
“There is an ever present risk that Iraq would be the theater where the struggle between the U.S. and Iran would play out,” Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets’ global head of commodity strategy said in a note.
Iraq, the second largest producer among the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), exports about 3.4 million barrels per day of crude.
In Europe, Belarus on Friday also said Russia had halted oil supplies to its refineries.
Oil prices were also lifted by China’s central bank saying on Wednesday it was cutting the amount of cash that banks must hold in reserve, releasing around 800 billion yuan (115 billion dollars) in funds to shore up the slowing economy.
This came shortly after data showed China’s production continued to grow at a solid pace and business confidence shot up.
“Oil prices still have room for further upside as many analysts are still having to upgrade their demand forecasts to include a rather calm period on the trade front,” Moya said, referring to signs of a thaw in trade relations between China and the U.S.
Iran vows ‘severe revenge’
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Friday morning that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US after an American airstrike on a pair of cars at Baghdad’s airport killed Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Iranian state TV carried a statement by Khamenei also calling Soleimani “the international face of resistance.” Khamenei declared three days of public mourning for the general’s death.
“Martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts all these years. With him gone, God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped, but severe revenge awaits the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood and other martyrs in last night’s incident,” Khamenei said on his Farsi-language Twitter account in reference to Soleimani.
Speaking in the same vein, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani “The flag of General Soleimani in defense of the country’s territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region will be raised, and the path of resistance to US excesses will continue. The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime”.
The flag of General Soleimani in defense of the country's territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region will be raised, and the path of resistance to US excesses will continue. The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 3, 2020
Meanwhile, Iran has appointed Brigadier General Esmaeil Qa’ani as the new chief of IRGC Quds Force to replace General Soleimani.
Iran’s supreme leader appointed assassinated commander Qassem Soleimani’s deputy, Brig.-Gen. Esmail Ghaani, to replace him as head of the country’s Quds Forces, Iranian media reported.
The force’s programme “will be unchanged from the time of his predecessor,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement published by state media.
Soleimani, and architect of Iran’s spreading military influence in the Middle East, was killed near Baghdad airport on Friday.
Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi condemns the U.S. attack in Baghdad, calling it an “aggression’’ on Iraq and a “dangerous escalation.”
Abdel-Mahdi pays tribute to Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, the deputy head of Iraq’s powerful pro-state Hashd Shaabi militia, and Soleimani, saying they were “symbols” of Iraq’s victory over Islamic State militants.
“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander is an aggression on Iraq as a state, government, and people,” Abdel-al-Mahdi says in a statement.
“Carrying out physical liquidation operations against leading Iraqi figures or from a brotherly country on the Iraqi lands is a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a dangerous escalation that triggers a destructive war in Iraq, the region and the world,” he adds.
Also, Britain has increased its security and readiness at military bases in the Middle East after the U.S. killed Iranian Maj.-Gen. Soleimani, Sky News reported on Friday without citing sources.
Britain has about 400 military personnel in Iraq, who help provide training in the country. They are mostly located at the Taji base, north of Baghdad.
“The safety and security of our personnel are of paramount importance and we keep our force protection measures under constant review.
“We do not comment on specific force protection measures,” a spokesman from Britain’s Ministry of Defence said when asked about the report.
Dozens of U.S. citizens working for foreign oil companies in the Iraqi oil city of Basra were preparing to leave the country on Friday, company sources said.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad urged all citizens to depart Iraq immediately, hours after the U.S. killed Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in an air strike.
The evacuation will not affect operations, production or exports, Iraqi oil officials said.
United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that wisdom and political solutions must prevail over confrontation and escalation, in comments published on Twitter after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab urged all parties to de-escalate after the U.S. killed Soleimani.
“We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani.
Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests,” he said in an emailed statement.