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Iraq summons US envoy over 'violation of sovereignty' following Soleimani assassination

Iraq has been angered by the strike which killed Soleimani and a paramilitary leader [Getty[

Date of publication: 5 January, 2020

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Iran's Major General Qasem Soleimani was killed alongside top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the US drone attack in Baghdad.
The Iraqi foreign ministry on Sunday summoned US ambassador Matthew Tueller to condemn American strikes on Iraq that killed a top Iranian general, an Iraqi commander and other local fighters. 

"They were a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty," the ministry said in a statement, and "contradict the agreed-upon missions of the international coalition.”

Iran's Major General Qasem Soleimani was killed alongside top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the US drone attack, which was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Soleimani was Iran's most powerful military commander, directing large-scale operations in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East. 

Muhandis, the Hashd al-Shaabi's deputy leader, helped found Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq.

The assassinations angered Baghdad, which has since 2003 grown closer to its Iranian neighbour. 

Senior Iraqi officials, including Iraq’s prime minister attended a huge mourning procession in Baghdad on Saturday for the slain commanders. Adel Abdel Mahdi joined Muhandis associate Hadi al-Ameri, Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim, former premier Nouri al-Maliki and other pro-Iran figures in a crowd of thousands.

The coffins were first brought to a revered Shia shrine in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district, where thousands of mourners chanted "Death to America.”

Dressed in black, they waved white Hashd flags and massive portraits of Iranian and Iraqi leaders, furiously calling for "revenge". 

The crowds then accompanied them south to a point near the Green Zone, home to government offices and foreign embassies, including America's.

Read more: Who was Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran's elite Quds force?

The dignitaries then accompanied the coffins into the Green Zone for an official ceremony.

The Pentagon said US President Donald Trump had ordered Soleimani's "killing" after a pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy in the Iraqi capital.

The Iraqi prime minister said the strike was a "flagrant violation" of a security accord with the US, warning it would "spark a devastating war in Iraq".

Read more: Comment: Soleimani assassination spells trouble for Iraqis, Iranians and the region

A paramilitary group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, urged its fighters to be on high alert, while in Lebanon, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned of "punishment for these criminal assassins”.

Iran has declared it will seek to avenge the killing of Soleimani, widely considered among the most powerful figures in the Islamic Republic, second only to the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

 

"President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox," former vice president Joe Biden said in a statement.

"Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East."

The US-led coalition on Sunday announced it was "pausing" its fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq, where US troops training local forces have faced a spate of rocket attacks.

"This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against Daesh (IS) and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review," the coalition said in a statement.

The US-led coalition said its forces in Baghdad and in an airfield north of the capital had faced new attacks, bringing the total rocket strikes in the last two months to 13. 

On Saturday, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stressed the "need for de-escalation" after the US assassination of Soleimani.

After meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Brussels, Borrell tweeted: "Spoke w Iranian FM @JZarif about recent developments. Underlined need for de-escalation of tensions, to exercise restraint & avoid further escalation".

Borrell said he also urged Zarif to maintain the landmark nuclear accord negotiated between Iran and the UN Security Council permanent members - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States - plus Germany.

The deal, also known as the JCPOA, offered Tehran relief from stinging sanctions in return for curbs to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons.

Agreed in 2015 it has been at risk of falling apart since Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

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