Iraqis ‘dancing in the street’ after Soleimani death: Pompeo

Iraqis ‘dancing in the street’ after Soleimani death: Pompeo
President Donald Trump ordered the killing of the Iran Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 January 2020

Iraqis ‘dancing in the street’ after Soleimani death: Pompeo

Iraqis ‘dancing in the street’ after Soleimani death: Pompeo
  • Trump said Soleimani should have been killed “many years ago”
  • US said Iranian commander was planning imminent action that threatened American citizens when he was killed in the US strike

WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a video on Twitter Thursday he said showed Iraqis “dancing in the street” after the United States killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

“Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more,” Pompeo wrote, alongside footage of scores of people running along a road and waving what appeared to be Iraqi flags and other banners.

President Donald Trump ordered the killing of the Iran Revolutionary Guards commander, who died Friday “in a decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad,” the Pentagon said.

President Donald Trump said Friday that Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani should have been killed long before.
In his first substantial comments on the operation, carried out earlier Friday at Baghdad's international airport, Trump tweeted that Soleimani "should have been taken out many years ago!"
Soleimani "has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught!" Trump said.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Friday that any Iranian retaliation in response to the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani would be a “very poor decision.”

O’Brien, briefing reporters on the US operation in a conference call, said Soleimani was struck while traveling around the Middle East planning attacks against American military personnel and diplomats in the region.

Iran told the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday that it reserves its right to self-defense under international law after the USattack on  Soleimani.

Iranian U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote in a letter that the killing of Soleimani "by any measure, is an obvious example of State terrorism and, as a criminal act, constitutes a gross violation of the fundamental principles of international law, including, in particular, those stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations."

READ MORE: Iran’s Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport

READ MORE:  OPINION: Qassem Soleimani’s death is a severe blow to Iran’s leadership — Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

READ MORE: How Iran’s Qassem Soleimani destabilized the Middle East

The US Department of Defense said in a statement: “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

Pompeo did not provide a source for the video or offer any details about where the images were filmed.

The strike at Baghdad’s international airport also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani was planning imminent action that threatened American citizens when he was killed in the US strike.

"He was actively plotting in the region to take actions - a big action, as he described it - that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk," Pompeo told CNN.

"We know it was imminent," Pompeo said of Soleimani's plot, without going into detail about the nature of the planned operation.

"These were threats that were located in the region," Pompeo added. "Last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack ... was disrupted."

"This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process," Pompeo added.

Pompeo said the United States remains committed to de-escalation with Iran but will defend itself. He added that the United States has fortified its assets in the region and is prepared for any possible retaliation, including a cyberattack.

Hours after news of the attack, the US embassy in Baghdad urged American citizens in Iraq on Friday to "depart immediately", for fear of fallout from a US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.

"US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land," the embassy said in a statement.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned by the recent rise in tensions in the Middle East, where the United States killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani following violent protests at its embassy in Baghdad.
"The Secretary-General has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf. He is deeply concerned with the recent escalation," said his spokesman, Farhan Haq, in a statement. "This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf."

The US strike hit outside Baghdad airport early Friday but security sources told AFP it was still open to flights.

A pro-Iran mob this week laid siege to the US embassy following deadly American airstrikes on a hard-line Hashed faction.

The US had called the strikes in response to a rocket attack days earlier that killed an American contractor working in Iraq.

The Pentagon said Soleimani had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past months, including on December 27, the day the contractor was killed.

“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” it said.

Republican lawmakers quickly spoke out Thursday in strong support of Trump's attack that killed Soleimani.

“In a display of resolve and strength, we struck the leader of those attacking our sovereign US territories,” top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.

The sentiment was swiftly echoed by his fellow Republicans.

“Wow - the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a close confidant of Trump, wrote on Twitter.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also praised the attack.

“Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands,” Haley said on Twitter. “his demise should be applauded by all who seek peace and justice. “proud of president trump for doing the strong and right thing.”

Trump's former advisor John Bolton always praised the killing of Soleimani and "congratulated" those involved.

The high praise from the right stood in stark contrast to reaction from Democrats, who severely criticized Trump's latest move in a sign of Washington's polarization ahead of this year's presidential elections.

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” said former vice president Joe Biden, who leads the pack of Democratic contenders, in a statement.

“Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East,” Biden said.

US entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wrote on Twitter that “war with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people.

“We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.”

Democratic Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said “Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

It was already a topic trending in US-based think tank and diplomatic circles late Thursday.

“Make no mistake: any war with Iran will not look like the 1990 Gulf war or the 2003 Iraq war,” Richard Haass, president of the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter.

“The region (and possibly the world) will be the battlefield,” he wrote.

Bahrain said on Friday it is following the developments in Iraq and called for de-escalation after the US air strike, according to state news agency BNA. 

Egypt's Foreign Ministry said on Friday it was following developments in Iraq with "great concern" and appealed against any further escalation.

"The Foreign Ministry is following with great concern accelerating developments in Iraq, which augur an escalation it is important to avoid," the statement said.

"For this reason, Egypt calls for containing the situation and avoiding any escalation."

Yemen’s government on Friday said it considered the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani an important step to end conflict in the region.

The comment was posted on Twitter by Muammar Al-Iryani, Information Minister of the internationally-recognised government, after the United States carried out an air strike in Iraq that killed Soleimani, architect of Iran’s military influence in the Middle East.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

In response to the attack, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the “international face of resistance.” Khamenei declared three days of public mourning for the general’s death.

Iran also summoned the Swiss charges d'affaires, who represents US interests in Tehran, to protest the killing.

Iranian state television called Trump’s order to kill Soleimani “the biggest miscalculation by the US” since World War II. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay," it said.

Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who control Yemen's capital Sanaa, also called for "swift reprisals" for the killing of Soleimani.

"We condemn this killing and direct and swift reprisals are the answer," senior Houthi official Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi tweeted.

The US air strike in Baghdad which killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani will increase insecurity and instability in the region, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

In a written statement, the ministry said that it was deeply concerned by the rising tensions between the United States and Iran, and that turning Iraq into an area of conflict will harm peace and stability in the region.

Lebanon's foreign ministry on Friday called for the country and wider region to be spared any repercussions from the US air strike that killed the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force.
The ministry also condemned the killing, calling it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation against Iran.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Friday sung the praise of slain Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, who played a key role in saving his regime in the nearly nine-year-old Syrian conflict.
The Syrian people "will not forget that he stuck by the side of the Syrian Arab army", Assad said in a letter of condolences sent to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Meanwhile, France’s embassy in Tehran on Friday urged its citizens in Iran to stay away from public gatherings after the killing of Soleimani.

“Three days of mourning have been declared after the death of General Soleimani. In this context, we recommend French citizens to stay away from any gatherings and to behave with prudence and discretion and abstain from taking pictures in public spaces,” it said in a statement on Twitter.

Royal Jordanian Airlines said on Friday it suspended flights to Baghdad's international airport until further notice due to the security situation.
The state carrier, which has eighteen scheduled flights every week to Baghdad, said its flights to other Iraqi cities were not affected and operating normally. 


Abu Dhabi to reopen cinemas with reduced capacity, Dubai bans cafes offering drinks in baby bottles

Abu Dhabi to reopen cinemas with reduced capacity, Dubai bans cafes offering drinks in baby bottles
Updated 8 min 7 sec ago

Abu Dhabi to reopen cinemas with reduced capacity, Dubai bans cafes offering drinks in baby bottles

Abu Dhabi to reopen cinemas with reduced capacity, Dubai bans cafes offering drinks in baby bottles
  • Earlier in February, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee approved closing all cinemas
  • Dubai authorities have banned local cafes from serving drinks in baby bottles to prevent the spread of coronavirus

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi will reopen its cinemas at a reduced 30 percent capacity while adhering to coronavirus precautionary measures, state news agency WAM reported.
Earlier in February, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee approved closing all cinemas.
Meanwhile, Dubai authorities have banned local cafes from serving drinks in baby bottles to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Dubai Economy said in a tweet.
“The Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection (CCCP) Sector in Dubai Economy directed coffee shops to stop serving drinks in baby bottles,” DED said.
There has been a spike in new daily cases since the beginning of the year, largely due to the high number of tourists traveling to the country over the holiday period.


Fighting in Yemen’s Marib kills 90 in 24 hours: govt military source

Fighting in Yemen’s Marib kills 90 in 24 hours: govt military source
Updated 13 min 57 sec ago

Fighting in Yemen’s Marib kills 90 in 24 hours: govt military source

Fighting in Yemen’s Marib kills 90 in 24 hours: govt military source

DUBAI: Fierce fighting between Yemeni pro-government forces and Iran-backed Houthi rebels has killed at least 90 combatants on both sides in the past 24 hours, a government military source said Saturday.
The clashes in the oil-rich province left 32 dead among government forces and loyalist tribes, while 58 Houthi rebels were killed in air strikes by the Arab-led coalition, the sources told AFP.


Top Shiite cleric tells pope Iraq Christians should live in peace

Top Shiite cleric tells pope Iraq Christians should live in peace
Updated 06 March 2021

Top Shiite cleric tells pope Iraq Christians should live in peace

Top Shiite cleric tells pope Iraq Christians should live in peace
  • The meeting, on the second day of the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, marked a landmark moment in modern religious history
  • Sistani, 90, “affirmed his concern that Christian citizens should live like all Iraqis in peace and security, and with their full constitutional rights,”

NAJAF, Iraq: Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the authority for most of the world’s Shiite Muslims, told Pope Francis in a historic meeting in the Iraqi city of Najaf Saturday that the country’s Christians should live in “peace.”
The meeting, on the second day of the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, marked a landmark moment in modern religious history.
Pope Francis is defying a second wave of coronavirus cases and renewed security fears to make a “long-awaited” trip to Iraq, aiming to comfort the country’s ancient Christian community and deepen his dialogue with other religions.
The meeting between the two elderly men lasted 50 minutes, with Sistani’s office putting out a statement shortly afterwards thanking Francis, 84, for visiting the holy city of Najaf.
Sistani, 90, “affirmed his concern that Christian citizens should live like all Iraqis in peace and security, and with their full constitutional rights,” it said.
His office published an image of the two, neither wearing masks: Sistani in a black turban with his wispy grey beard reaching down to his black robe and Francis all in white, looking directly at the grand ayatollah.
Sistani is extremely reclusive and rarely grants meetings but made an exception to host Francis, an outspoken proponent of interreligious dialogue.
The Pope had landed earlier at Najaf airport, where posters had been set up featuring a famous saying by Ali, the fourth caliph and the Prophet Muhammad’s relative, who is buried in the holy city.
“People are of two kinds, either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity,” read the banners.
The meeting is one of the highlights of Francis’s four-day trip to war-scarred Iraq, where Sistani has played a key role in tamping down tensions in recent decades.
It took months of careful negotiations between Najaf and the Vatican to secure the one-on-one meeting.
“We feel proud of what this visit represents and we thank those who made it possible,” said Mohamed Ali Bahr Al-Ulum, a senior cleric in Najaf.
Pope Francis, a strong proponent of interfaith dialogue, has met top Sunni clerics in several Muslim-majority countries, including Bangladesh, Morocco, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Sistani, meanwhile, is followed by most of the world’s 200 million Shiites — a minority among Muslims but the majority in Iraq — and is a national figure for Iraqis.
“Ali Sistani is a religious leader with a high moral authority,” said Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, the head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and a specialist in Islamic studies.
Sistani began his religious studies at the age of five, climbing through the ranks of Shiite clergy to grand ayatollah in the 1990s.
While Saddam Hussein was in power, he languished under house arrest for years, but emerged after the US-led invasion toppled the repressive regime in 2003 to play an unprecedented public role.
In 2019, he stood with Iraqi protesters demanding better public services and rejecting external interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs.
On Friday in Baghdad, Pope Francis made a similar plea.
“May partisan interests cease, those outside interests who don’t take into account the local population,” Francis said.
Sistani has had a complicated relationship with his birthplace Iran, where the other main seat of Shiite religious authority lies: Qom.
While Najaf affirms the separation of religion and politics, Qom believes the top cleric — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — should also govern.
Iraqi clerics and Christian leaders said the visit could strengthen Najaf’s standing compared to Qom.
“The Najaf school has great prestige and is more secular than the more religious Qom school,” Ayuso said.
“Najaf places more weight on social affairs,” he added.
In Abu Dhabi in 2019, the Pope met Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo and a key authority for Sunni Muslims.
They signed a text encouraging Christian-Muslim dialogue, which Catholic clerics hoped Sistani would also endorse, but clerical sources in Najaf told AFP it is unlikely.
While the Pope has been vaccinated and encouraged others to get the jab, Sistani’s office has not announced his vaccination.
Iraq is currently gripped by a resurgence of coronavirus cases, recording more than 5,000 infections and more than two dozen deaths daily.
Following his visit to the grand ayatollah, the pope will head to the desert site of the ancient city of Ur — believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, common patriarch of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths — where he will host an interfaith service, with many of Iraq’s other religious minorities in attendance.


Officials: 18 killed as truck crashes into bus outside Cairo

Officials: 18 killed as truck crashes into bus outside Cairo
Updated 06 March 2021

Officials: 18 killed as truck crashes into bus outside Cairo

Officials: 18 killed as truck crashes into bus outside Cairo

CAIRO: A trailer-truck crashed into a microbus, killing at least 18 people and injuring five others south of the Egyptian capital, authorities said.
The country’s chief prosecutor’s office said in a statement the crash took place late Friday on a highway near the town of Atfih, 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Cairo.
The Cairo-Assiut eastern road, located on the eastern side of the Nile River, links Cairo to the country’s southern provinces and is known for speeding traffic.
Police authorities said the truck’s tire exploded, causing it to overturn and collide with the microbus. The victims were taken to nearby hospitals, the statement said. The truck driver was arrested.
Traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
The country’s official statistics agency says around 10,000 road accidents took place in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available, leaving over 3,480 dead. In 2018, there were 8,480 car accidents, causing over 3,080 deaths.


Israel to further ease its coronavirus restrictions from Sunday

Israel to further ease its coronavirus restrictions from Sunday
Updated 06 March 2021

Israel to further ease its coronavirus restrictions from Sunday

Israel to further ease its coronavirus restrictions from Sunday
  • Green passport holders can enter cafes and restaurants and choose to sit indoors or outdoors
  • At the airport, Israel will only allow 3,000 Israelis to enter the country per day

DUBAI: Israel announced it will further ease its coronavirus measures from Sunday, national daily The Jerusalem Post reported.
Students between grades seven and 10 will attend classes physically in green, yellow and orange cities, the report said.
The country’s “traffic system” has identified “green” cities as those with lowest COVID-19 cases, while the second lowest infection rates are “yellow,” followed by “orange” and “red.”
Israel had also required people entering cafes, restaurants and hotels to submit a green passport, which can be obtained through the health ministry for anyone who has taken the two shots of the coronavirus vaccine for at least a week.
But “children below the age of 16, who are not allowed to be vaccinated, will not be able to accompany their vaccinated parents,” the report added.
Green passport holders can enter cafes and restaurants and choose to sit indoors or outdoors.
Non-vaccinated people can only sit outside. Hotels will also reopen, allowing holders of the passport to access a wide range of activities.
At the airport, Israel will only allow 3,000 Israelis to enter the country per day.
New arrivals will be required to quarantine and must present a negative COVID-19 test result and be tested on arrival.
Meanwhile, the Coronavirus Knowledge and Information Center has warned that the country may witness another outbreak, as around 5 percent of Israel’s population have tested positive each day.
The health ministry said more than 4.9 million people have taken at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 3.6 million who have already taken their second shot.
More than half of the country’s 9 million-strong population have already received the two recommended doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine since the inoculation drive began in December.
Israel has registered more than 796,000 cases of Covid-19, including over 5,800 deaths.