Iraq’s Parliament has called for US and other foreign military forces to leave amid a growing backlash against Washington’s killing of a top Iranian military commander.
- Mr Trump has threatened to strike sites across Iran if it retaliates against the US
- Iran has summoned the Swiss envoy representing the US in Tehran over the threats
- World leaders have urged Washington and Tehran to diffuse tensions
Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed on Friday in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport, an attack that has stoked concerns about a major military escalation between Tehran and Washington.
Soleimani was the architect of Tehran’s overseas clandestine and military operations as head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution calling on the Government to work to end all foreign troop presence, reflecting the concern of many in Iraq that the strike could engulf the country in a major war between two bigger powers.
“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, air space or water for any reason,” it said.
But resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding to the government.
However, this one is likely to be heeded: Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who heads a Shi’ite-led government, had earlier called on parliament to end foreign troop presence as soon as possible.
Despite decades of enmity between Iran and the United States, Iranian-backed militia and US troops fought side by side during Iraq’s 2014-17 war against Islamic State militants, their common enemy.
Some 5,000 US troops remain in Iraq, most in an advisory role.
The resolution was passed by overwhelmingly Shi’ite lawmakers, as the special session was boycotted by most Sunni Muslim and Kurdish politicians.
One Sunni member of parliament told Reuters that both groups feared that kicking out US-led coalition forces would leave Iraq vulnerable to an insurgency, undermine security and heighten the power of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.
Meanwhile, Iran said on Sunday (local time) it would further roll back its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six powers, by enriching uranium without restrictions, but Tehran would continue to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog.
State television said Iran would not respect any limits set down in the pact on the country’s nuclear work: whether the limit on its number of uranium-enrichment centrifuges to its enrichment capacity, the level to which uranium could be enriched, or Iran’s nuclear research and development activities.
“Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment with no limitations and based on its technical needs,” a statement cited by state television said.
Iran has steadily overstepped the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities in response to the United States withdrawing from the accord in 2018 and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions that have crippled Iran’s oil trade.
Tehran said it could quickly undo those breaches if those sanctions were removed.
Trump dubbed a ‘terrorist in a suit’
Earlier, US President Donald Trump was dubbed a “terrorist in a suit” after he threatened to strike 52 Iranian sites if Tehran retaliated over Soleimani’s assassination.
@realDonaldTrump tweet: ….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!
“Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis! They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit. He will learn history very soon that NOBODY can defeat ‘the Great Iranian Nation & Culture’,” Information and Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi tweeted.
The two countries have no diplomatic relations and on Sunday, Iran summoned the Swiss envoy representing US interests in Tehran to protest at “Trump’s hostile remarks”, according to Iranian state television.
The American explanation for the strike cited intelligence claims that alleged Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister” attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.
However, Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, disputes Washington’s explanation, and has suggested Soleimani’s killing may be illegal under international law.
@AgnesCallamard tweet: The test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation”. This test is unlikely to be met in these particular cases. (6)
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected cynicism directed toward Washington’s intelligence assessment.
“The intelligence assessment made clear that no action — allowing Soleimani to continue his plotting and his planning, his terror campaign — created more risk than taking the action that we took last week,” he told American ABC.
Thousands of Iranians turn out to mourn Soleimani
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised on Friday that Iran would seek harsh revenge for Soleimani’s death.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s powerful, Iran-allied Hezbollah movement, said the US military in the Middle East would pay the price for Soleimani’s death and US soldiers and officers would return home in coffins.
Hezbollah has had numerous conflicts with US-ally Israel, including a month-long war in 2006.
In south-western Iran, hundreds of thousands of mourners, many chanting, beating their chests and wailing in grief, marched to show their respects after Soleimani’s body was returned home to a hero’s welcome.
Soleimani’s body was flown to the city of Ahvaz in southwest Iran.
IRIB posted a video of a casket wrapped in an Iranian flag being unloaded from a plane as a military band played.
World powers continue to press for restraint
In recent days, the European Union, United Kingdom, China, Russia, Oman and Australia have urged the parties to seek to de-escalate the crisis.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had spoken to Iraq’s prime minister and president to urge efforts to relieve tensions in the region following the US strike.
Mr Raab, who described Soleimani as a “regional menace” and said he was sympathetic to the situation the United States found itself in, said he also planned to speak to Iran’s foreign minister.
@JosepBorrellF tweet: Intense day discussing w EU& intl counterparts situation in #Iraq. Current cycle of violence must be stopped before it spirals out of control. All actors involved&those partners who can have influence should exercise maximum restraint+ show responsibility.
“There is a route through which allows Iran to come in from out of the international cold,” he told Sky News.
“We need to contain the nefarious actions of Iran but we also need to de-escalate and stabilise the situation.”
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Iran’s foreign minister to work to de-escalate the situation and invited him to Brussels to discuss ways of preserving world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
It was Mr Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of sanctions on Iran that launched a new spiral of tensions after the accord.