Live Updates: Pompeo Says Killing Suleimani Was ‘the Right Decision’
Here are the latest developments:
Pompeo: ‘We got it right.’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press briefing at the State Department on Tuesday.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday addressed some of the many questions surrounding the American airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and a number of other people traveling with him.
“It was the right decision, we got it right,” Mr. Pompeo said as reporters quizzed him about President Trump’s decision to carry out the attack on Friday. General Suleimani posed an immediate threat, according to Mr. Pompeo, who cited the death of an American contractor in a rocket attack several days earlier as proof.
Mr. Pompeo also defended the broader “maximum pressure” campaign that President Trump has vowed to carry out against Iran, saying that the strategy had diplomatic, economic and military components. He added that the president had been “unambiguous” in the remarks he made following the attacks.
“In the event that the Iranians make another bad choice, the president will respond in the way he did last week,” he said.
Mr. Pompeo also rejected the idea that General Suleimani had been visiting Iraq “on a diplomatic peace mission.” That suggestion was “fundamentally false,” he said.
Deadly stampede at funeral in Suleimani’s hometown.
As Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s body was taken home for burial, a crush is believed to have killed dozens of mourners who crowded the streets of Kerman, Iran.CreditCredit…Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Iranian state-run news outlets reported a deadly stampede during the funeral procession for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in his hometown, Kerman, in southeastern Iran, on Tuesday.
Millions were reported to have flooded the town’s streets to witness the procession for the general, who was killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad last week. His death has fanned smoldering tensions between the United States and Iran, and fueled fears of a broader conflict.
The crowding and subsequent stampede in Kerman led to General Suleimani’s burial being postponed, state news media reported. It is still unclear when he will be buried.
Photographs of the procession showed an elaborately decorated truck carrying General Suleimani’s coffin through streets packed densely with mourners, many wearing black and carrying pictures of the dead commander.
“Unfortunately, as a result of a stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,” Pirhossein Koulivand, head of the Iranian emergency medical services, told the news agency IRIB.
He later told the news agency Fars, an outlet associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, that 40 people had been killed and another 213 injured.
Images and videos posted on social media showed the aftermath of the crush, with emergency workers and bystanders attempting to resuscitate people lying on the ground. The lifeless bodies of other victims, jackets covering their faces, could be seen nearby.
The general’s body had been flown to Kerman after a funeral in Tehran on Monday that had brought even bigger crowds into the streets of the Iranian capital.
Iran issues new threats before the funeral procession.
In a fiery speech made in Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s hometown on Tuesday, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps vowed to “set ablaze” places where Americans and their allies live.
“We will take revenge — a revenge that will be tough, strong, decisive and finishing and will make them regret,” the corps’s leader, Hossein Salami, said on Tuesday in a front of a crowd of mourners. “We will set ablaze the place they like, and they know where it is.”
“Today, the seeds of hatred for the U.S. have been sown in the hearts of Muslims,” he added, according to Fars, an Iranian news agency associated with the Revolutionary Guards.
The pledge to seek vengeance echoed the rhetoric of many of the country’s leaders since General Suleimani’s killing on Friday. “Death to Israel,” the crowd chanted back, according to news reports. Israel, a close ally of the United States, has long been an enemy of Iran.
Thousands of mourners, dressed in black and carrying photos of General Suleimani, crowded the central square of Kerman, where the general’s body was taken for burial after a funeral procession on Monday in Tehran, the capital.
Before arriving in Kerman, the general’s remains were taken to the holy city of Qom, where thousands of residents came out, hoping for a chance to touch the coffin of a man the state has declared a martyr.
On Monday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept and offered prayers over General Suleimani’s coffin at the enormous state funeral. The ayatollah, Iran’s supreme leader, had a close relationship with the general, who was widely considered to be the country’s second-most powerful man.
General Suleimani’s successor swore revenge during Monday’s ceremony, while chants of “Death to America” rang out from the crowds in the capital.
State-run news outlets reported that millions had gathered in Tehran, and images showed a sea of mourners, many wearing black and waving the Iranian flag.
“God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger,” said Esmail Ghaani, the Iranian general who will succeed General Suleimani as head of the Quds Force, the foreign expeditionary arm of the Revolutionary Guards. “Certainly, actions will be taken,” he added.
Iran’s foreign minister says he was denied visa for U.N.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said on Tuesday that he had been rejected for a visa to attend a Security Council meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York, confirming reports from American news outlets that he would be barred.
Mr. Zarif, in an interview with the Iranian news outlet Press TV, said that his office had requested a visa weeks ago to participate in the meeting on Thursday, rejecting claims by American officials that they had not had time to process the application.
“The Americans are trying to create the impression that our request to attend the meeting was put forth following the assassination of General Suleimani,” Mr. Zarif said, according to the news outlet, adding, “The question everyone needs to be asking this lawbreaking administration is: What are they so scared of?”
Mr. Zarif later posted on Twitter about the situation, taking aim at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump.
During a Tuesday morning news conference, Mr. Pompeo was asked about the visa but said he would not comment specifically on visa matters. He added that the United States would “comply with our obligations” under United Nations rules.
Robert C. O’Brien, the American national security adviser, was asked on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning about the visa.
“I don’t think Secretary Pompeo thought that this was the right time for Mr. Zarif to come to the United States, and whenever he comes to New York, he spreads propaganda,” Mr. O’Brien said.
The New York meeting plans to focus on the topic of upholding the Charter of the United Nations, and comes as Iran and the United States are engaged in a heated back-and-forth over the American drone strike last week that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.
The office of the United Nations secretary general did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Mr. Zarif visited New York in September to attend the United Nations General Assembly, after claims that his visa had been intentionally delayed. In August, the United States announced sanctions on Mr. Zarif, a seasoned diplomat who helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear deal.
Embassies warn Americans of potential attacks.
In Jerusalem and elsewhere across the Middle East, United States embassies warned Americans of potential attacks from Iran, as Iranian generals vowed to avenge the senior commander killed in an American drone strike.
In Jerusalem, the embassy told Americans on Monday to watch out for “mortars and rocket fire.” A day earlier, the United States Mission in Saudi Arabia had warned citizens to be prepared for “missile and drone attacks.”
The security alerts follow the targeted killing on Friday of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leading figure in Iran’s foreign-facing intelligence and military operations.
At General Suleimani’s funeral in Tehran on Monday, military commanders promised vengeance. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told advisers that any retaliation against the United States should be direct, proportional and carried out openly by Iran.
That is a startling departure for the Iranian leadership, which has typically cloaked its attacks behind the actions of proxies it has cultivated around the region. But in the fury generated by the killing of General Suleimani, a close ally and personal friend of the supreme leader, the ayatollah was apparently willing to cast aside those traditional cautions.
In Israel, the United States Embassy on Monday issued a security alert for the entire country and warned Americans of potential mortar and rocket attacks.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the embassy strongly encourages U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, as security incidents, including rocket fire, often take place without warning,” the embassy said in an alert published on its website.
The United States Mission to Saudi Arabia on Sunday warned Americans in the kingdom to be aware of a “heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.”
American embassies across the region have been on heightened alert since Dec. 31, when militants, backed by the Iranian government, stormed the embassy in Baghdad. President Trump said the assault was organized by General Suleimani.
Last week, embassies in Baghdad and in Beirut, Lebanon, issued security alerts. Some airlines have halted flights to the Iraqi capital, including EgyptAir, which on Tuesday announced that its flights in and out of the city would stop from Wednesday through Friday.
Iran’s Parliament labels the Pentagon’s leadership ‘terrorists.’
The Iranian Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill declaring the American military’s top leadership to be “terrorists,” subject to Iranian sanctions, according to news reports in state media.
The bill aimed at the Pentagon’s top brass mirrored a Trump administration policy implemented in April that imposed economic and travel sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as well as organizations, companies and individuals with ties to it.
That policy represented the first time an arm of a sovereign government had been designated a terrorist organization.
The Defense Department said the killing of General Suleimani was justified in part because of the corps’s terrorist designation. General Suleimani led the Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guards that conducted intelligence-gathering and attacks outside Iran’s borders.
Parliament expedited the bill through an emergency process, according to the semiofficial Iranian news agency Tasnim.
Also on Tuesday, Parliament allocated $223 million to the Quds Force to “avenge” General Suleimani’s death, according to Fars, the state news agency.
Defense Department mistakenly releases letter authorizing troop withdrawal from Iraq.
An official letter from the Defense Department informing Iraq that American troops were “repositioning forces” for “movement out of Iraq” produced headlines around the world saying that an American withdrawal had begun.
But the letter, drafted by the United States military command in Baghdad, was sent out by mistake. The furor it caused prompted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, to call an urgent news conference to deny the reports.
“It was an honest mistake,” General Milley told reporters at the Pentagon. “That letter is a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released.”
“There’s been no decision made to leave Iraq, period,” Mr. Esper said. “There is no decision to leave, nor did we issue any plans to leave.”
General Milley said military officials had begun making arrangements for a withdrawal in the event that a decision is made to pull out. The Iraqi Parliament voted on Sunday to expel American troops from the country, amid anger over the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani on Iraqi soil. But Iraq has not formally notified the United States that it must leave.
General Milley said the military was “moving forces around” to consolidate positions. Not only were they not withdrawing, he said, but more forces were arriving from Kuwait.
Despite Trump’s threat, the Pentagon rules out striking Iranian cultural targets.
Mark T. Esper, the secretary of defense, said striking Iranian cultural sites with no military value would be a war crime, putting him at odds with President Trump, who has insisted that such places would be legitimate targets. The president’s threats generated condemnation at home and abroad while deeply discomfiting American military leaders who have made a career of upholding the laws of war.
“We will follow the laws of armed conflict,” the defense secretary said at a news briefing at the Pentagon on Monday when asked if cultural sites would be targeted, as the president had suggested over the weekend. When a reporter asked if that meant “no” because the laws of war prohibit targeting cultural sites, Mr. Esper agreed: “That’s the laws of armed conflict.”
The furor over the threat to Iranian antiquities was a classic controversy of Mr. Trump’s own creation, the apparent result of an impulsive threat and his refusal to back down in the face of criticism. While Mr. Trump declared on Saturday that the United States had identified 52 potential targets in Iran, none of them qualified as cultural sites, according to an administration official who asked not to be identified correcting the president.
Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO, met with the Iranian ambassador to the organization on Monday to discuss the current situation, and issued a statement pointing to international agreements that condemn acts of destruction of cultural heritage.
“Ms. Azoulay stressed the universality of cultural and natural heritage as vectors of peace and dialogue between peoples, which the international community has a duty to protect and preserve for future generations,” UNESCO said in the statement.
Germany is to withdraw some troops from Iraq.
Germany announced on Tuesday that it would pull a contingent of its troops out of Iraq, given “recent developments.”
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German defense minister, said over the weekend that about 120 soldiers taking part in the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State would be confined to their bases but would remain in the region.
On Sunday, the German Army’s inspector general decided that a planned rotation of troops to forward bases in Iraq would not be taking place, the Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
But another contingent of several dozen German soldiers normally stationed in Baghdad and in another Iraqi city, Taji, as part of a training mission were being pulled out, Roderick Kiesewetter, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament, told the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Tuesday.
“It is just a temporary reduction,” he said. “That means about 30 to 40 troops will be moved to Jordan, where we have reconnaissance jets and tankers. So our soldiers remain in the region.”
Reporting was contributed by Megan Specia, Russell Goldman, Farnaz Fassihi, David D. Kirkpatrick, Melissa Eddy, Edward Wong, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Alissa J. Rubin, Ben Hubbard, Mark Landler, Helene Cooper and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.
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