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KILLING OF SOLEIMANI

Fears of regional conflagration

DUBAI, January 3, 2020

The US killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful figure after its supreme leader, is seen by Tehran as an act of war that risks regional conflagration, says a Reuters report.
 
By ordering Friday’s air strike on the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s foreign legions, President Donald Trump has taken the US and its allies into uncharted territory in its confrontation with Iran and its proxy militias across the region, it said.
 
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has vowed "severe revenge" on those responsible for the death of Soleimani.
 
Soleimani was killed by an air strike at Baghdad airport early on Friday ordered by President Trump. The 62-year-old spearheaded Iran Middle East operations as head of the elite Quds Force. Trump said he killed or wounded thousands of Americans.
 
The killing marks a major escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran. US officials have said 3,000 additional troops will be sent to the Middle East as a precaution.
 
Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported directly to the Ayatollah and Soleimani was hailed as a heroic national figure, a BBC report said.
 
But most analysts believe this blow to its prestige, plus Khamanei’s personal commitment to Soleimani and his campaign to forge an axis of Shi’ite paramilitary power across the Levant and into the Gulf, means Iranian reprisals will be lethal, it said.
 
It risks a slide into direct conflict with the US that could engulf the whole region. “The direct assassination of Soleimani by the United States is a naked challenge and Iran has to carry out a major face-saving act to respond,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “This is not the end of it.”
 
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US wanted to de-escalate the situation, but that the strike was "lawful" and "saved lives". He told Fox News: "We do not seek war with Iran but we will not stand by and see American lives put at risk."
 
Later Pompeo thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Saudi Arabia's "steadfast support" and "for recognising aggressive threats posed by Iran's Quds force", the state department said.
 
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Iranians have been holding rallies in Tehran and other cities, denouncing what they call US crimes.
 
so announced three days of national mourning. The ayatollah would lead prayers at a funeral ceremony for the general in Tehran on Sunday, Iranian media quoted Soleimani's family as saying.



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