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Iran news – live: Trump claims Qassem Soleimani was ‘plotting to kill’ Americans, and urges US citizens to leave Iraq after killing of Iran’s top general

US president and his top diplomat provide no detail for claim, while Tehran and allies vow revenge

Vincent Wood,Jon Sharman,Samuel Osborne
Friday 03 January 2020 18:34 GMT
Senator Chuck Schumer says Congress should have been informed prior to strikes on Soleimani

Donald Trump and his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, have claimed Qassem Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat to American lives that justified the airstrike that killed him in Baghdad last night.

The US president said the Iranian general was “plotting to kill” US citizens, but neither he nor Mr Pompeo provided additional details to support the claim. Americans in Iraq have been urged to leave immediately in the wake of the killing.

Soleimani, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force and Tehran’s most senior military commander in Iraq, was killed near Baghdad Airport alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a high-ranking commander in Iraq’s militia.

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Welcome to The Independent's live coverage of reaction to the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, on the orders of Donald Trump.

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:20

If you need to catch up...

The Pentagon has confirmed it killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful general in Iraq, on the orders of Donald Trump, write Bel Trew and Andrew Buncombe.

Within an hour of news breaking that Soleimani, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, had been killed in an airstrike at Baghdad Airport, the US said it had carried out the operation and claimed it acted to “deter future Iranian attack plans”.

“At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” a Pentagon statement said.

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:21

Muqtada al-Sadr has reactivated the anti-American Mahdi Army armed group in the wake of the US airstrike, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:22

The UK's former Middle East minister, Alistair Burt, has warned of the "unknowable consequences" of the US strike.

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:24

Brett McGurk, the former head of the anti-Isis coalition under Barack Obama and Donald Trump, has warned that America is now effectively at war with Tehran.

He told MSNBC: "As an American who has served a lot of time in Iraq, including in 2007, 2008 period when we were really in a very hot war with a lot of these Iranian-backed groups, I really feel that it's a measure of justice done.

"I have colleagues that were killed by some of these groups.

"I'm also hearing from former colleagues in the region a lot of concern, obviously, about where this goes.

"I think we need to presume, now, as a country, like it or not, we need to presume that we're in a state of war with Iran. This has been a covert war, a shadow war, for 40 years, but with this action I think we need to presume - to protect our people in the region, to protect our interests - that we're in a state of war with Iran."

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:36

Alistair Burt, the former Middle East minister, has warned that the consequences of the US airstrike are "unknowable".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This will be seen as a huge potential escalation, the consequences are unknown, the United States will have had its reasons, but it's very important now to concentrate on what happens next and for everybody involved diplomatically to do everything they can to try and defuse the situation, to avoid this becoming an even more serious provocation."

The risk to British personnel in the region is "much greater" this morning as a result of the killing of Mr Soleimani, he added.

Mr Burt said: "The United States will no doubt say that personnel was at risk already from actions taken by the Iranians. The question is, to what extent have any of those consequences been satisfactorily resolved by this action, and it would seem at this stage very unlikely that there's a positive answer to that."

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:45

"A strike like this ... takes the confrontation between the United States and Iran to a completely different level," Alistair Burt added in his interview with Today.

"Any action where you cannot foresee the immediate consequences and take steps to prevent the most difficult consequences puts the region on edge."

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:46

Ilhan Omar, the freshman Democratic congresswoman, has said she will use her seat in the House to work against what she suggests is Donald Trump's plan for war with Iran.

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:50

The commander of an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq has ordered his fighters to be on high alert for battle.

"All fighters should be on high alert for upcoming battle and great victory.

"The price for the blood for the martyred commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis is the complete end to American military presence in Iraq," local TV channel al-Ahd quoted Qais al-Khazali as saying. 

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:54

Joe Biden, the former vice president and frontrunner for the Democrats' 2020 presidential nomination, has warned that Donald Trump has "tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox" by killing Qassem Soleimani.

In a statement, Mr Biden said: "No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani's passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. He supported terror and sowed chaos.

"None of that negates the fact that this is a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region. The administration's statement says that its goal is to deter future attacks by Iran, but this action almost certainly will have the opposite effect.

"President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad."

Jon Sharman3 January 2020 07:58

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