ON THE BRINK OF WAR

Iran vows re­venge after US kills top gen­eral

Daily Express - - Front Page - By John Ing­ham and Michael Knowles

THE US faced war with Iran last night after killing its top mil­i­tary com­man­der.

Qassem Soleimani, 62, was taken out by a drone on Thurs­day night as he

left Bagh­dad air­port after US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ordered the at­tack.

Ira­nian lead­ers im­me­di­ately vowed vengeance against Amer­ica.

And as out­rage spread from Tehran across the Mid­dle East, Bri­tain and other US Western al­lies braced them­selves for ter­ror out­rages.

Out­right con­ven­tional war may be un­likely given Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary might. But acts of ter­ror­ism, sab­o­tage and cy­ber war­fare were seen as in­evitable.

Gen­eral Soleimani, de­scribed as the sec­ond most pow­er­ful man in Iran, died along­side other top com­man­ders of Ira­nian-backed Iraqi mili­tias as their two-car con­voy was blown up by mis­siles fired from a US drone near a cargo area. The group had just got off a plane from ei­ther Syria or Lebanon.

Such was the dam­age that the gen­eral could only be iden­ti­fied by his ring.

Others among the ten to die in­cluded Soleimani’s son-in-law and Abu Mahdi al-Muhan­dis.

He founded Kataib Hezbol­lah, the mil­i­tant group tar­geted by US war­planes ear­lier this week after launch­ing an at­tack that killed an Amer­i­can civil­ian worker.

As pro­test­ers burned US and

‘Re­tal­i­a­tion could come in al­most any form, any­where’

Bri­tish flags in Tehran, Iran’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei warned that “harsh re­tal­i­a­tion is wait­ing” for the US.

He promised a “ji­had of re­sis­tance” against the “crim­i­nals who blood­ied their foul hands with his blood”.

Ira­nian pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said: “Soleimani’s mar­tyr­dom will make Iran more de­ci­sive to re­sist Amer­ica’s ex­pan­sion­ism and to de­fend our Is­lamic val­ues.

“With no doubt, Iran and other free­dom-seek­ing coun­tries in the re­gion will take his re­venge.”

Le­banese mili­tia Hezbol­lah, which was trained, armed and fi­nanced by Soleimani, called for world­wide re­venge.

The as­sas­si­na­tion of a se­nior of­fi­cial from a state with which the US is not of­fi­cially at war was widely con­demned.

Tory MP To­bias Ell­wood, a for­mer de­fence min­is­ter and Army cap­tain tweeted: “This is big,” adding: “Ex­pect reper­cus­sions.”

Dr Jack Watling, of the Royal

United Ser­vices In­sti­tute, said Bri­tons in the re­gion could face cap­ture or ar­rest if the UK was seen to be work­ing with the US.

Bri­tain’s in­fra­struc­ture could also be at risk from cy­ber at­tacks.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab called for calm, say­ing the Gov­ern­ment had “al­ways recog­nised the ag­gres­sive threat posed by the Ira­nian Quds force” – led by the gen­eral – but that “fur­ther con­flict is in none of our in­ter­ests”.

In Amer­ica, Democrats con­demned the Bagh­dad raid for mov­ing the US closer to an­other war in the re­gion. But Pres­i­dent Trump, cur­rently hol­i­day­ing at his Mar-a-Largo re­sort in Florida, de­fi­antly posted a pic­ture of the Stars and Stripes.

Bru­tal

He later tweeted that Soleimani had “killed or badly wounded thou­sands of Amer­i­cans over an ex­tended pe­riod of time, and was plot­ting to kill many more”.

He added: “He should have been taken out many years ago!”

The US De­fense Depart­ment said it killed Soleimani be­cause he “was ac­tively de­vel­op­ing plans to at­tack Amer­i­can diplo­mats and ser­vice mem­bers in Iraq and through­out the re­gion”.

The US an­nounced last night that it is send­ing nearly 3,000 ex­tra troops to the Mid­dle East.

Amer­ica had launched air raids on mili­tia camps ear­lier this week after claim­ing Soleimani had co­or­di­nated at­tacks on the US em­bassy in Bagh­dad.

Expert Dr James Wor­rall, of the Univer­sity of Leeds, said: “The as­sas­si­na­tion is prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant es­ca­la­tion that Wash­ing­ton could make short of bomb­ing Iran.

“It is of great sig­nif­i­cance and grav­ity and throws the re­gion into fur­ther tur­moil.

“In­deed this is very un­likely to re­main con­tained in the re­gion.

“Re­tal­i­a­tion could come in pretty well any form near enough any­where – and there is lit­tle the US will be able to do about it ei­ther in mit­i­ga­tion or in terms of preven­tion.”

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and a Reaper drone of the type used by Amer­i­can forces

Pic­tures: GETTY, EPA

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