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

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

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

(AFP)

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

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