© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
What world leaders are saying about brewing tension between US, Iran
GOVERNMENTS across the world and leaders of international organisations have condemned the US airstrike against the Islamic Republic of Iran, each urging all parties to exercise restraint.
Three days into the new year, an airstrike against Iran sanctioned by United States President Donald Trump has killed top Iranian major general and former commander of its Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, a decision considered by the Islamic Republic as an act of war.
Friday’s raid also killed at least six other people, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Soleimani’s adviser and deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
The strike has worsened already strained relations between the two countries, causing panic about a possible major war.
UN, Germany, China, others call for restraint
The United Nations, Germany, and China among others, have urged the two countries to exercise restraint.
The tone of the statements is noticeably shaped by the bilateral or multilateral relations each has with either of the two nations . While those loyal to the United States are referring to Soleimani as a notorious terrorist and war criminal, others have gone as far as calling him a veteran military leader and genius.
In a statement released by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres’s spokesperson, he expressed his deep concern about rising tensions in the region.
“The secretary-general has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf,” Farhan Haq said. “This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” he pleaded.
China also appealed for caution, especially from the US, adding that it is against the use of force in international relations.
“We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions,” its foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said on Friday.
Speaking on behalf of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, spokesperson Ulrike Demmer has pleaded for de-escalation through prudence and restraint.
The UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, emphasised the need for de-escalation as well because “further conflict is in none of our interests” and France as described stability in the Middle East as the priority.
US, Israel describe attack as self-defence
The United States has described its action as self-defence. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump said the intention is to “stop a war”, not to start one. But he added that he is prepared to do “whatever action is necessary” to protect the lives of US citizens if they are threatened.
“Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” President Trump tweeted the same day.
Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has also said the killing of Soleimani was based on intelligence about an “imminent attack” he was plotting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also strongly defended the US, maintaining that the strike was in self-defence. “Just as Israel has the right of self-defence, the United States has exactly the same right,” he said on Friday “Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks.”
Syria, Iraq, Russia, others not as optimistic
Statements from countries in the Middle East as well as Russia, on the other hand, have rather focused on everything wrong with the US strike and the likely ripple effects.
Iraq, whose territory, was used for the raid was not pleased. The country’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called the attack an onslaught that could “spark a devastating war”.
“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander is an aggression on Iraq as a state, government and people,” the Iraqi leader said. “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.”
According to the Syrian government, “this cowardly US aggression … will only strengthen determination to follow in the path of the resistance’s martyred leaders”. It also accused the US of resorting to “the methods of criminal gangs” through the attack which would seriously escalate the situation in the region.
The Russian foreign ministry has also been quoted by local media organisations to have described the killings as “an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region”. “Soleimani served the cause of protecting Iran’s national interests with devotion,” it said.
Others who have strongly condemned the attack are Turkey, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and the Palestinian group Hamas.
Iran itself has warned that the US should be held responsible “for all consequences of its rogue adventurism”. The country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that Soleimani’s assassination was “an extremely dangerous and foolish escalation”.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also said on Saturday that the US’ action was a “grave mistake”and said Americans “will face the consequences of this criminal act not only today, but also in the coming years”.