Mideast crisis: Huge crowds in Iran mourn top general
We call on all the players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility, urge EU leaders
Tehran, Iran - A sea of black-clad Iranians on Monday mourned the top commander killed in last week’s US drone strike that inflamed tensions across the Middle East, as NATO was set to discuss the spiralling crisis.
Iranians clutching ‘Down with USA’ signs and portraits of their hero Qasem Soleimani massed as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei presided over prayers for the slain head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
The targeted killing of 62 year old Soleimani ordered by US President Donald Trump saw the Islamic republic vow ‘severe revenge’ before Tehran also took a further step back from the already tattered 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.
In an escalating war of words that has heightened international concern and rattled financial markets, Trump threatened yet more ‘major retaliation’ if Tehran hits back, including strikes on Iranian cultural sites.
Iraq’s parliament meanwhile demanded the government expel the 5,200 American troops stationed in the country in response to the Baghdad drone attack which also killed top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al Muhandis.
Trump has warned that a forced departure of US troops would prompt sanctions against Iraq that would ‘make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame’.
NATO ambassadors were to hold an extraordinary meeting at Brussels headquarters to ‘address the situation in the region’, said an official of the alliance, which has been forced to suspend its training mission in Iraq.
Germany, France and Britain urged Iran to refrain from taking ‘further violent actions or support for them’, or from steps that further weaken the 2015 nuclear deal.
‘It is crucial now to de-escalate’, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a joint statement on Sunday. ‘We call on all the players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility’.
The European leaders also pleaded with all parties to not jeopardise the ongoing battle against the Islamic State group, which has lost its self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ but whose militants remain active.
The raw emotions sparked by the US killing were on full display in Tehran, where mourners formed a sea of black, dotted with red Shiite flags and white signs, in what state television said was a ‘several millionstrong’ turnout.
Khamenei appeared to cry as he prayed over the flag-draped coffins containing the remains of Soleimani and five other ‘martyrs’ killed in the strike.
It is crucial now to de-escalate Merkel, Macron and Johnson
Mourners gather to pay homage to Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and other victims of a US attack, in Tehran on Monday