(Bloomberg) – President Donald Trump said late Saturday that the US had identified 52 Iranian locations that would be affected if Tehran did not take the step to "start a mission" a day after the US said the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani would precede war. "
Trump's comment came after the U.S. and Iran negotiated threats after the fatal drone attack on the Islamic Republic's most prominent military and Tehran promised a protracted response.
The comment seemed to reverse the efforts of Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who has repeatedly reaffirmed in the past two days that the United States remains committed to de-escalation with Iran while speaking to representatives from the Middle East and Russia. Pompeo will be giving five US television interviews on Sunday morning.
The White House told Congress on Saturday that the drone attack had been officially reported on Thursday evening, a senior democratic adviser said. The material contained in the document has been classified. A senior government official said Trump delivered the notification in accordance with the War Powers Resolution.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told relatives of murdered General Qassem Soleimani on Saturday that the United States "will not see the effects of their mistake today, but they will see it for many years," the Iranian state broadcaster's report said.
However, some effects were immediately noticeable. A wave of rocket attacks on Saturday targeted the green zone of Baghdad, where the U.S. embassy is located, and the nearby Balad Air Force Base, where U.S. troops are stationed. No coalition forces were injured. Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah warned Iraqi security forces at the US faculties in Iraq to stay away.
Trump said on Friday that he agreed to the strike in Iraq because Soleimani planned "impending and sinister attacks" against American diplomats and military personnel. Pompeo informed Fox News on Friday night that the Quds Force commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps was planning an attack on such a scale that it would have killed a "significant number" of Americans, and possibly Lebanese and Syrians. He said he couldn't discuss details.
Troops on the way
The United States deploys approximately 2,800 soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division to join approximately 700 troops deployed to Kuwait earlier this week as part of the division's responsive "standby battalion". Around 60,000 people were already employed in the region in the United States.
There is growing concern that more nations will be involved in a major regional conflict as Iran threatens to avenge Soleimani, who has lead proxy militias that have expanded Iran's power in the Middle East.
The murder has shaken global markets. Oil futures in London and New York once rose more than 4%, gold reached its highest level in four months, and yields on 10-year Treasury bills showed the largest decline in three weeks. The S&P 500 index fell.
"We are not aiming for war with Iran," Pompeo said in an interview on Fox on Friday. “At the same time, however, we will not see how the Iranians escalate and continue to endanger the lives of the Americans without reacting in a way that disrupts, defends, discourages and creates an opportunity for de-escalation. "
United States national security advisor Robert O’Brien said the government will provide confidential information to Congress next week when lawmakers return from a vacation break.
A Deputy Secretary of Defense and two other officials informed the House and Senate Armed Forces Committee staff on Friday about the latest threats, the airstrike that killed Soleimani, and the eleven attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, the Pentagon said Spokeswoman Alyssa Farah in a statement with.
Soleimani was killed in a car late Thursday by a Reaper drone that could fire laser-guided weapons when he left an access road to Baghdad Airport, a US official said. The strike also killed the deputy commander of an Iraqi militia group, the Shiite-dominated people's mobilization force, who was with Soleimani.
The attack was the last in a series of violent incidents that have weighed on hostile relations between Iran and the United States. Last week, an American contractor was killed in a missile attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk. This led to a rare, direct American attack on an Iran-backed militia in Iraq and then an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.
As the protests continued in Tehran, Rouhani said the United States had done malicious acts against Iran for decades and referred to the coup that reintroduced the Shah in 1953. "We will never forget America's crimes," he said. "This is a saga that goes back years."
The funerals of the dead began on Saturday morning in Baghdad with thousands of people present, many of whom were carrying militia banners. Regardless, the PMF denied reports overnight that an attack on cars carrying some of its members north of Baghdad was another American airstrike.
The Iranian regime will be under "strong pressure" to fight back, said Paul Pillar, a former official of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and a non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown University in Washington. "Many Iranians will look at this event as much as Americans, for example, the murder of one of the best known and most admired US military leaders."
Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, asked Pompeo on Friday to comment that Iraqis "dance on the streets for freedom, thankful that General Soleimani is no longer".
"An arrogant clown disguising himself as a diplomat claimed that people dance in Iraqi cities," Zarif said on Twitter, without naming Pompeo. "Today, hundreds of thousands of our proud Iraqi brothers and sisters have offered him their answers across the board."
Soleimani, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, was a household name in Iran, where he was celebrated for defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and countering the influence of the United States.
He has been sanctioned by the United States since 2007 and was appointed Revolutionary Guard Corps by Washington in May last year as a foreign terrorist organization. It was the first time that the seal was affixed to an official government agency or a country's security forces. Iran appointed Esmail Ghaani, another Middle East conflict veteran, to replace Soleimani.
The Iranian leadership signals that it can target US military facilities and bases in the Middle East and mobilize its network of militias across the region. An official told the state broadcaster that about 36 US military bases and facilities are within range for the Iranian armed forces, with the closest being in Bahrain.
An attack on Saudi oil factories in September, for which Iranian-supported rebels in Yemen were responsible, highlighted the potential impact of Tehran's response.
The strike in the United States triggered a lightning-fast round of diplomatic phone calls and meetings. European allies called on the President to find a way to alleviate tensions with Tehran and warned of the risk that a retaliatory cycle could get out of control. French President Emmanuel Macron is speaking to his counterparts in the Middle East to curb tensions, Minister for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin said on RTL radio.
Qatar's foreign minister traveled to Tehran in the Gulf to talk to his Iranian counterpart about the murder. The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, called for calm and prudent behavior, and complained of the lack of trust between the parties as the situation escalated.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Rouhani and Iraqi President Barham Salih to discuss developments. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to Zarif and Chinese counterpart Wang Yi by phone.
– With the support of Tony Capaccio, Kathleen Miller and Zaid Sabah.
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