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US sending 3,000 more troops to Mideast as reinforcements

Israeli embassies, IDF raise alert levels as Iran threatens revenge attacks; Trump says Qassem Soleimani should ‘have been taken out years ago’

In this photo provided by U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, prepare to deploy from Kuwait in support of a crisis response mission, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Robert G. Gavaldon via AP)
In this photo provided by U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, prepare to deploy from Kuwait in support of a crisis response mission, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Robert G. Gavaldon via AP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Friday’s events as they unfolded.

US embassy in Baghdad urges citizens to ‘depart Iraq immediately’

The US embassy in Baghdad urges American citizens in Iraq 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 says in a statement.

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

— AFP

Syria condemns ‘cowardly’ US killing of Iranian, Iraqi commanders

The Syrian government condemns the US killing overnight in Baghdad of top Iranian and Iraqi commanders and accuses Washington of trying to fuel conflict in the Middle East.

Syria is “certain that this cowardly US aggression… will only strengthen determination to follow in the path of the resistance’s martyred leaders,” a foreign ministry official is quoted as saying by the state news agency SANA.

— AFP

Iraq’s Sadr reactivates famous anti-US ‘Mahdi Army’ after strike

Iraq’s militia leader turned populist politician Moqtada Sadr reactivates his Mahdi Army following a US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.

Taking to Twitter, Sadr orders “fighters, particularly those from the Mahdi Army, to be ready” following the strike, reactivating the notoriously anti-American force nearly a decade after he dissolved it.

— AFP

Iraq PMF commander calls all fighters to ‘be ready’ after US strike

A commander in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force militia calls its fighters to be on alert following a US strike that killed its deputy head and top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

“All resistance fighters must be ready, as an upcoming conquest and a great victory await us,” says Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, in a handwritten note seen by AFP.

— AFP

Iraq PM says US strike threatens ‘devastating war’

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi slams a US strike that killed top Iraqi and Iranian commanders in Baghdad as an “aggression” that will “spark a devastating war.”

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people,” Abdel Mahdi says in a statement, referring to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the powerful Popular Mobilization Force militia, who died in the strike along with Iranian commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.

Abdel Mahdi says the strike is also a “flagrant violation of the conditions authorizing the presence of US troops” on Iraqi soil.

— AFP

US killing of Iranian general risks ‘dangerous escalation’: Pelosi

The killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in an American air strike risks provoking a “dangerous escalation of violence,” US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi says.

“America — and the world — cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return,” she adds in a statement.

— AFP

France says world ‘more dangerous’ after US killing of Iranian general

The US killing of a top Iranian military commander has made the world “more dangerous,” France’s Europe minister says, calling for efforts to deescalate the deepening conflict in the Middle East.

“We have woken up to a more dangerous world,” Amelie de Montchalin tells RTL radio, saying President Emmanuel Macron will consult soon with “players in the region.”

“In such operations, when we can see an escalation is underway, what we want above all is stability and deescalation,” Montchalin says.

“All of France’s efforts… in all parts of the world aim to ensure that we are creating the conditions for peace or at least stability,” she adds. “Our role is not to take sides, but to talk with everyone.”

— AFP

China urges ‘calm and restraint’ after US kills Iranian general

China appeals for restraint from all sides, “especially the United States,” after top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani is killed in a US strike in Iraq.

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says at a daily press briefing. “We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He says Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is a key partner of Iran and major buyer of the country’s oil.

Geng says China urges all sides to abide by the principles of the UN charter and the “basic norms of international relations.”

— AFP

Iranian officials say US should leave region or ‘order caskets for soldiers’

The head of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy threatens US forces in the Middle East during an interview on state television, after a US airstrike near Baghdad killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Hardline lawmaker and cleric Mojtaba Zolnouri tells state TV: “When the US is killing Iranian forces outside of Iran, the US must see its troops killed at its bases in the region.”

A senior Revolutionary Guard commander, Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, says that “the White House must leave the region today or it must go to the market to order caskets for soldiers.”

The general adds: “We don’t want bloodshed. They have to choose by themselves.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the US. Iran’s cabinet spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said in a tweet that Iran’s severe response won’t be far away.

— AP

US killing of Iranian general will ‘increase tensions’: Moscow

Moscow warns that the US killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq will boost tensions across the Middle East.

“The killing of Soleimani…. was an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region,” news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS quote the foreign ministry as saying. “Soleimani served the cause of protecting Iran’s national interests with devotion. We express our sincere condolences to the Iranian people.”

— AFP

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah vows to avenge Soleimani’s death

Hassan Nasrallah, head of Iran-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, mourns Iran’s Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani as a “master of resistance” after he is killed in a US airstrike in Iraq.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah speaks on the 13th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, August 16, 2019. (screenshot)

“To continue on General Soleimani’s path, we’ll raise his flag in all battlefields,” the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar website quotes Nasrallah as saying.

“Revenge for martyred fighters is a responsibility and an act of resistance,” he adds.

Netanyahu cutting short Greece visit due to Soleimani killing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to cut short his visit to Greece in light of the US killing of Iran’s Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani, his office says.

The Prime Minister’s Office says Netanyahu will return home, but doesn’t say when.

— with Raphael Ahren

Rouhani calls Soleimani’s killing by US a ‘heinous crime’

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani calls the killing of the country’s Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani by the US a “heinous crime.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech at the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

Rouhani says in a tweet that “the great nation of Iran will take revenge” for the US airstrike near Baghdad’s airport.

Iran’s president adds that “the path of resistance to US excesses will continue.”

The targeted killing could draw forceful Iranian retaliation against American interests in the region and spiral into a far larger conflict.

The state-run IRNA news agency also publishes a Rouhani statement saying the US violated all human rights and international law.

— AP

Iraqi parliament set for urgent session tomorrow

Iraq’s deputy parliament speaker says an emergency parliament session is set for tomorrow to discuss the US airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top military commander and Iraqi officials.

Hassan al-Kaabi says it is time to put an end to “US recklessness and arrogance,” adding that Saturday’s session will be dedicated to taking “decisive decisions that put an end to US presence inside Iraq.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi has called for the emergency session, saying the US presence in Iraq is limited to training forces to fight terrorism. He has described the attack that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the Iraqi officials a “violation” of conditions for the US troop presence.

— AP

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric says US Iraq strike ‘wanton attack’

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani condemns a deadly US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders as a “wanton attack” on the country.

Senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf on March, 13, 2019. (Office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, via AP)

In his weekly sermon delivered by his representative in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, Sistani says the raid amounted to a “blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”

Following the prayers, hundreds of male worshipers begin chanting “No to America!”

— AFP

UK ups security in Mideast bases, urges calm after Soleimani’s killing

Britain has increased security throughout its bases in the Middle East due to the US airstrike that killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, Sky News reports.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab called for calm, saying London has “always recognized the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani and his Quds Force, and adding: “Following his death, we urge all parties to deescalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

— with AFP

Bennett, top defense officials end security assessment after Iran vows revenge

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other top security chiefs end a situational assessment at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Bennett’s office says.

The discussion is also attended by the head of the Mossad spy agency and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, following the US killing of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani and threat of retaliation by Tehran.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (C) and security chiefs during a situational assessment at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 3, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Iran names new Quds Force chief after Soleimani killed

Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani has been named the next commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ expeditionary Quds Force by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, following the killing of its previous leader Qassem Soleimani, Iranian media reports.

Ghaani served as the deputy commander of the unit from 1997 until Soleimani’s death in a US strike overnight.

— Judah Ari Gross

Iran adviser says to clear the Mideast of US ‘insidious beasts’

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader is threatening US troops in the Middle East and says “this is the time to clear the region from these insidious beasts.”

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami makes the comment while leading Friday prayers in Tehran, just hours after a US airstrike in Baghdad killed Iran’s top general.

The hardliner Khatami says Americans will never enjoy peace of mind again after the killing of elite Quds Force chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The cleric adds: “I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take a revenge that will change their daylight into a nighttime darkness.”

— AP

Hamas mourns Soleimani, says his blood will be a ‘curse for Zionist occupation’

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, expresses its condolences to Iran on the death of Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in an American strike in Baghdad early Friday.

The Qassam Brigades say in a statement that Soleimani “focused much of his efforts and fight to working towards the demise of the Zionist entity and removing it from Palestine’s land.”

The terror group also states that the Iranian general “took action to provide all forms of support to the resistance to confront the Zionist enemy.”

The Qassam Brigades adds that they are “certain that the Hajj Qassem Soleimani’s blood will be a curse for the killers and the Zionist occupation.”

— Adam Rasgon

Iraqi president calls for restraint after deadly US strike

Iraqi President Barham Saleh calls for restraint after a US strike killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside Baghdad airport.

“We call on everyone to restrain themselves,” Saleh says in a statement, characterizing the strike as an “aggression” and saying Iraq will be destabilized if “voices of reason” do not prevail.

— AFP

Berlin urges ‘prudence’, ‘deescalation’ after US kills Iranian commander

Germany urges restraint and deescalation after the US killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, sending tensions soaring in the region.

“We are at a dangerous point of escalation. It is now important through prudence and restraint to contribute to deescalation,” says Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer.

— AFP

Germany orders troops in Iraq to stay in their bases

Germany’s defense ministry says its soldiers who help train local forces in Iraq have been ordered not to leave their bases following the US killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

Germany currently has 130 soldiers in Iraq. Defense ministry spokeswoman Christina Routsi says the troops “will have a restriction… no movement outside military facilities in Taji and Baghdad.”

Routsi says the training of Iraqi troops will continue.

Germany has a longstanding warning against travel to most of Iraq. Now it says the situation in the Middle East has reached “a dangerous escalation point” with the killing of elite Quds Force chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani and vows of retaliation from Iran.

— AP

Tens of thousands rally in Iranian capital against US ‘crimes’

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Tehran to protest against American “crimes,” an AFP correspondent reports, after US strikes killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad.

Chanting “Death to America” and holding up posters of slain commander Qassem Soleimani, the demonstrators fill streets for several blocks in central Tehran after Friday prayers.

— AFP

EU chief says violence in Iraq ‘has to stop’

The president of the European Council, who represents EU leaders in Brussels, warns against further escalation in Iraq after US forces killed an Iranian general.

In this file photo taken on November 17, 2017, Belgium’s then-prime minister Charles Michel walks to a luncheon during the European Social Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP)

“The cycle of violence, provocations and retaliations which we have witnessed In Iraq over the past few weeks has to stop,” former Belgian premier Charles Michel says.

“Further escalation must be avoided at all cost,” he adds, hours after a US strike killed Iranian covert force commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport.

— AFP

‘Precision drone strike’ killed Soleimani: US defense official

A US drone carried out a “precision strike” to kill senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a US defense official tells AFP.

“A precision drone strike hit two vehicles at Baghdad airport,” the official says.

The official adds that part of the 750 forces from the US 82nd Airborne division dispatched to the region a few days ago had already arrived in Baghdad.

“They will head to the US embassy to relieve Marines who had arrived in recent days,” the source says.

— AFP

Bolton congratulates for ‘eliminating’ Soleimani

Former US national security adviser John Bolton is congratulating all involved for “eliminating” Iran’s top military commander.

In a Twitter post, Bolton adds that “long in the making, this was a decisive blow against Iran’s malign Quds Force activities worldwide. Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

Iran’s supreme leader has vowed “harsh retaliation” for the US airstrike near Baghdad’s airport that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Iran’s interventions across the Middle East.

— AFP

Netanyahu hails Trump for ‘decisive’ action that killed Soleimani

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises the United States and its president Donald Trump for killing Iranian top commander Qassem Soleimani.

“President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively. Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense,” Netanyahu tells reporters before departing back to Israel from Greece.

“Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right,” the premier adds. “Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks.”

All Chabad emissaries worldwide urged to up security alertness

The body responsible for Chabad shluchim asks all emissaries around the world to upgrade their security alertness for fear of Iranian revenge attacks for the killing of its top commander Qassem Soleimani.

“Maintain an increased awareness, report any suspicious activity or behavior to the nearest law enforcement officials,” the body says in a message, according to Channel 12.

Pompeo says US ‘committed to deescalation’ after Soleimani killing

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the US is “committed to deescalation” after the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in an American strike.

Pompeo tweets that he has spoken with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi about the killing.

“Thankful that our allies recognize the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force,” he writes. “The US remains committed to deescalation.”

— AFP

American oil field workers leaving Iraq

American nationals working at Iraqi oil fields are leaving the country after a US strike killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders in Baghdad, an oil ministry spokesman says.

Several already left in the morning and others are preparing to fly out, Assem Jihad tells AFP, adding that there is “no impact” on Iraq’s oil production.

The number of American staff at fields in OPEC’s second-biggest crude producer has already dwindled in recent months as tensions between the US and Iran soared.

— AFP

Trump mocks Iran after Soleimani killed, says country ‘never won a war’

Trump says Soleimani should have been ‘taken out years ago’

US President Donald Trump says top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani was responsible for millions of deaths and “should have been taken out 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 tweets.

“He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself,” Trump says.

He adds Soleimani was also hated inside Iran and “He should have been taken out many years ago!”

Iran Guards threaten US, ‘fake Zionist regime’ over Soleimani killing

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps threatens the United States and Israel after Qassem Soleimani, one of its top commanders, was killed by an American strike in Baghdad.

“We remind enemies of the Islamic Ummah, especially [the] terrorist government of America and the fake Zionist regime, that General Soleimani was not one individual but a never-ending school and belief,” the IRGC says in a statement quoted by the Mehr news agency.

It also says the US strike would “open a new chapter in the path of anti-Zionism resistance and fighting occupying American terrorists in the region.”

Soleimani headed the Quds Force, which is responsible for the IRGC’s operations overseas.

Among those mourning his death were Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers, terror groups opposed to Israel.

One killed in Paris stabbing, assailant shot dead

French police shoot dead a knife-wielding man who killed one person and injured at least two others in a park in a suburb south of Paris on Friday, police and sources close to the inquiry say.

The man had attacked “several people” in a park in Villejuif before he was “neutralized,” the Paris police department says.

Sources close to the investigation told AFP one of the victims had later died.

AFP

Israeli embassies, IDF raise alert levels as Iran threatens revenge attacks

The Defense Ministry has put Israeli embassies and offices on “high alert” worldwide in the wake of the US killing in Iraq of Qassem Soleimani and amid Iranian threats of revenge against the US and Israel, Channel 13 news reports.

Security has also been bolstered at Israeli legations deemed to be in locations regarded as “sensitive,” the TV report says.

The Israeli army has also raised its alert levels. The Hermon ski site near the Israel-Syria boder is being kept closed, but no special instructions have been issued to northern Israeli residents.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (C) and security chiefs during a situational assessment at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 3, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett earlier Friday convened a meeting in Tel Aviv of security and intelligence chiefs to deal with the possible repercussions of the Soleimani killing.

Iran summons Swiss over US airstrike

The Swiss Foreign Ministry says the charge d’affaires of its embassy in Tehran was summoned Friday to be “informed of Iran’s position” after a US airstrike killed Iran’s top military commander.

Switzerland represents the interests of the US in Iran, offering a diplomatic channel between the two countries.

The Swiss statement gave no details about the meeting but said its charge d’affaires “in turn delivered the message of the United States.”

Switzerland also joined a growing number of countries urging both sides to avoid further escalation after the US airstrike in Baghdad. Others including Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan have called for restraint, with Turkey’s foreign ministry warning that all sides would suffer otherwise.

That statement also said Turkey opposes foreign interventions, assassinations and sectarian conflict in the region, while Pakistan’s statement called for “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

AP

Iran says it has decided on response to deadly US airstrike

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council says it has reached a decision on how to respond to the US killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, but isn’t saying what the decision is.

The council’s brief statement after a special session Friday says it investigated “the different aspects of this incident and it is announcing that the United States of America is responsible for all consequences of this criminal adventure.”

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council formulates the country’s military and nuclear program strategy. However, any matter of state is finally decided by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The US has said the leader of the elite Quds Force was targeted near the Baghdad airport in response to “imminent threats to American lives.”

AP

Israel said to warn Gaza terror groups against responding to Soleimani killing

Israel has warned the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups against any attempted response from the Gaza Strip to the US targeted killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the Walla news site reports.

The warning was transferred via Egypt, according to the report.

The Gaza-ruling Hamas earlier expressed its “sincere condolences” after Soleimani was killed and hailed his support for the “Palestinian resistance,” but did not issue any overt threat.

Islamic Jihad, which in November fought a two-day battle with Israel after one its military commanders was killed in an IDF strike, has yet to respond to Soleimani’s killing.

The strike in Baghdad on Soleimani comes amid efforts to broker a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which have fought three wars since the terror group took control of Gaza in 2007.

UN chief urges ‘maximum restraint’ in the Gulf

The UN secretary-general has urged leaders to “exercise maximum restraint” following the US airstrike that killed Iran’s top military commander.

Antonio Guterres stressed that “the world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says in a statement. Guterres “is deeply concerned with the recent escalation” in the region, Haq says.

AP

Jordan, Bahrain airlines cancel Baghdad flights

Two Mideast airlines say they have suspended flights to and from Baghdad as the killing of Iran’s top general in a targeted US airstrike in Iraq inflamed geopolitical tensions.

Jordan’s flagship carrier, Royal Jordanian, says in a statement Friday that it halted all service between Amman and Baghdad “in light of the security situation in the Iraqi capital and at Baghdad International Airport, the target of the strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani.”

Gulf Air, the flag carrier of Bahrain, suspended flights to and from Bagdad and the city of Najaf in southcentral Iraq. The royal family of Bahrain has opposed Iran’s Shiite theocracy.

Royal Jordanian operates 18 weekly scheduled flights between Baghdad and Amman. The airline said its regularly scheduled flights to Najaf and the Iraqi cities of Basra, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are operating as usual.

AP

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran ‘self-restraint’

Saudi Arabia, which is Iran’s top regional rival, added its voice of caution after a US airstrike killed Iran’s top military commander in Baghdad.

Its Foreign Ministry says in light of the rapid developments in the Mideast, the kingdom “calls for the importance of self-restraint to ward off all acts that may lead to aggravating the situation with unbearable consequences.”

The statement further calls on the international community “to ensure the stability of such a vital region to the entire world.”

AP

US sending 3,000 more troops to Mideast as reinforcements

The United States is sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the Mideast as reinforcements in the volatile aftermath of the killing of an Iranian general in a strike ordered by President Donald Trump, defense officials say.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet announced by the Pentagon, say the troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They are in addition to about 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who deployed to Kuwait earlier this week after the storming of the US embassy compound in Baghdad by Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters.

The dispatching of extra troops reflects concern about potential Iranian retaliatory action for the killing Thursday of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force. But it also runs counter to Trump’s repeated push to extract the United States from Mideast conflicts. Prior to this week’s troop deployments, the administration had sent 14,000 additional troops to the Mideast since May, when it first publicly claimed Iran was planning attacks on US interests.

AP

Iran leader makes condolence call to Soleimani widow

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has paid a condolence call to the family of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in the US airstrike in Iraq.

Khamenei met his widow and other family members at his home in Tehran.

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets family of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in the U.S. airstrike in Iraq, at his home in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
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Iraq’s Sadr reactivates famous anti-US ‘Mahdi Army’ after strike

Iraq’s militia leader turned populist politician Moqtada Sadr reactivates his Mahdi Army following a US strike that killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.

Taking to Twitter, Sadr orders “fighters, particularly those from the Mahdi Army, to be ready” following the strike, reactivating the notoriously anti-American force nearly a decade after he dissolved it.

— AFP