An Iranian prosecutor said the country had issued an Interpol arrest warrant for United States president Donald Trump for his role in the assassination of a leading military commander earlier this year.
The Tehran prosecutor Ali Alghasimehr said the international “red alert” warrant included Mr Trump and 35 others allegedly involved in the 3 January drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s clandestine overseas paramilitary force, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Monday.
“Thirty-six people who were involved in the assassination of Hajj Qassem were identified, including political and military officials from the United States and other governments, have been ordered by the judiciary to be given a red alert to Interpol,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
US Iran envoy Brian Hook, in Saudi Arabia to drum up diplomatic support for the extension of United Nations arms ban on weapons sales to and purchases from Iran, dismisssed the warrant as "propaganda" that should not be taken seriously.
"Interpol does not intervene and issue red notices that are based on a political nature," he told assembled press. "This is a political nature. This has nothing to do with national security, international peace or promoting stability."
There is little chance Interpol or any other law enforcement agency would act on the warrant, which stems from a decision by Mr Trump and hardline ideologues shaping his Iran policy to kill Soleimani outside the international airport in Baghdad.
But the stunt by Iranian authorities serves to distract attention away from the government’s failings at a crucial crossroads.
The country’s economy is in tatters because of severe US sanctions strictly constraining Iran’s ability to do business with other nations and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has drastically slowed the domestic economy. Faced with the economic meltdown, the administration of president Hassan Rouhani defied health experts and began allowing businesses to reopen, sparking a resurgence of the coronavirus.
After falling to as few as 34 reported Covid-19 deaths in a day in May, fatalities have climbed back up, with at least 144 deaths reported on Sunday, the highest since the pandemic’s early April peak.
The charges against Mr Trump and his entourage also resurrect memories of an assassination that briefly galvanised and unified large segments of Iran’s population.
The warrant comes at a time when Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, racial tensions in the US, and antics on the world stage have made him especially unpopular at home and abroad. A survey published on Monday by the European Council of Foreign Affairs showed perceptions of the US across EU countries had worsened considerably over Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Alghasimehr did not specify the 35 other officials that he said had been reported to Interpol. The organisation has yet to comment, and a search of its database of thousands of wanted individuals yielded no results for the name of Donald Trump.
Neither Mr Trump nor top US officials make frequent trips outside the borders of staunch longtime Western allies or authoritarian dictatorships and monarchies ruled by men the administration in Washington considers friends. Few if any law enforcement officials in those countries would act on arrest warrants that could enrage the US, which has the world’s biggest economy and its most powerful military.
But Mr Alghasimehr said Iran would pursue the warrants even after Mr Trump and his deputies leave office, potentially limiting their movements for years to come, or at least making them think twice before travelling abroad.
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