Pompeo: Qassem Soleimani not in Baghdad on diplomatic mission

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was not in Baghdad pursuing a peaceful diplomatic mission. (AP)
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Updated 07 January 2020

Pompeo: Qassem Soleimani not in Baghdad on diplomatic mission

  • Said planned attacks orchestrated by Soleimani would have killed many Americans
  • Pompeo also accused Iran of working to thwart efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was not in Baghdad pursuing a peaceful diplomatic mission when the US killed him in a drone attack last week.

"Is there any history that would indicate that it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order - Qassem Soleimani - had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission?" Pompeo told reporters. "We know that wasn't true," he added.

He added that attacks planned by Iranian military commander Soleimani "were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans," after being asked to clarify his comments on Friday that they were "imminent."

Pompeo also held Soleimani responsible for a Dec. 27 rocket attack in Iraq in which a US civilian contractor was killed.

"He was continuing the terror campaign in the region. We know what happened ... in December, ultimately leading to the death of an American. So, if you are looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani," he said.

Pompeo also accused Iran of working to thwart efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

"Iran has refused to join the regional and international consensus for peace, and is, in fact, actively working to undermine the peace process by continuing its long global effort to support militant groups there," he said at a State Department news conference.

Also on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that the US  wants to de-escalate the current tensions with Iran, but the country is ready to finish any war that could be started.

"We are not looking to start a war with Iran but we are prepared to finish one," he said. "What we'd like to see is the situation de-escalated."

Meanwhile, Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that the country's military joint operations command eceived a letter from the US army concerning a possible withdrawal of its troops.

The letter's English and Arabic language versions were not identical so Iraq had requested clarifications from Washington, Abdul Mahdi told a televised cabinet meeting.

He spoke two days after Iraqi lawmakers, with his support, voted for a resolution demanding a removal of all foreign forces from Iraq following the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport.


Kuwait vows to cut migrant population to 30%

Updated 6 min 12 sec ago

Kuwait vows to cut migrant population to 30%

DUBAI: The Kuwaiti government said it wants to cut the migrant proportion of its population from 70 to 30 percent to address what it called a population discrepancy. 
State media quoted the country’s prime minister saying that the state of Kuwait was facing a “big challenge” in its population structure and that it shall start relying on its citizens to replace foreign workers. 
Out of 4.8 million inhabitants, some 3.3 million are foreign nationals and 1.45 million are Kuwaitis, said Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah.
"The ideal demographic situation would be that Kuwaitis make up 70 percent of the population and non-Kuwaitis 30 percent," he said.
"So we face a big challenge in the future which is to address the discrepancy in population."
He said there were 75,000 foreign domestic helpers in the country, which equal half the population of Kuwaiti nationals. 
“We rely on our sons and daughters to work in all professions,” Al-Sabah added.

Kuwait has a large foreign population mostly made up of Middle Eastern and Asian workers.

Kuwait Airways said last week it would lay off 1,500 expatriate employees due to "significant difficulties" caused by the pandemic.