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Monday, January 6, 2020

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs


Mudslides and Blackouts Are Hampering the Search for People Missing After the Indonesian Floods

Posted: 06 Jan 2020 12:23 AM PST

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Mudslides and power blackouts hampered the search for people missing in massive floods in Indonesia’s capital, where more than 60 people have died and some of the tens of thousands of evacuees were living in damp, cramped emergency shelters.

More than a thousand soldiers and health workers sprayed disinfectant in hard-hit areas on Sunday to fend off diseases that could spread in the floods. Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged a dozen districts in the greater Jakarta area after extreme New Year’s Eve rains, causing landslides in hilly areas on the outskirts of the capital that buried scores of people.

It’s the worst flooding in the area since 2007, when 80 people were killed over 10 days. More rain is in the forecast, and the potential for more extreme rainfall is possible for the next month.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said Monday the death toll from flash flood and landslides in and around Jakarta rose to 66 and rescuers are still searching for two people reportedly still missing in Lebak, a district in neighboring Banten province.

In Lebak district, where flash floods and mudslides damaged more than 2,000 houses in several villages, some were swept away, rescuers were still searching for a 7-year-old boy reportedly dragged away by flash flooding that killed at least nine people, said Zainal Arifin, a local search and rescue agency chief.

He said mudslides that covered much of the area, blackouts and lack of telecommunications were hampering the search efforts.

About 11,000 health workers were deployed to provide medical care for people affected by the flooding, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said in a statement. He said there had been no recorded cases of serious waterborne diseases, after disinfectant spraying started Sunday.

Waters have receded in most parts of greater Jakarta, allowing many residents to return and clean up, but scores of tightly packed settlements close to rivers that often suffer from floods during the rainy season remained inundated or covered in mud and debris.

Government data on Monday showed some 35,500 people were unable to return to their homes, with the receding floodwaters still .6 meters (2 feet) high in places.

In an emergency shelter at a sports center in south Jakarta, mothers breast-fed their babies near piles of smelly wet garbage.

“My baby is not sleeping as the rain comes in, the wind comes in,” Yuyun Yuniarti said while holding her 7-month-old baby in a sling. “It is disgusting here, but we are stuck.”

Yuniarti said food and medicine appeared to be sufficient, with authorities and private organizations delivering regular supplies of food at most shelters in recent days.

A temporary clinic was treating patients close to where Yuniarti was sleeping, including many suffering from respiratory illnesses.

Indonesia’s meteorology agency said more downpours were forecast for the capital in the coming days, and that the potential for extreme rainfall would continue until next month across the vast archipelago nation.

Indonesia is hit by deadly floods each year, and this year’s have been particularly bad in Jakarta, with nearly 400,000 people seeking refuge in some 270 shelters across the greater metropolitan area as floodwaters reached up to 6 meters (19 feet) in some places.

A Mysterious Virus in Central China Has Infected Dozens, Raising Fears of a New Epidemic. Here’s What to Know

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 11:52 PM PST

An unidentified form of pneumonia has broken out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, prompting authorities to quarantine those infected and raise hospital alerts. Wuhan’s health bureau announced Sunday that close to 60 patients have been diagnosed with the virus, and neighboring Hong Kong has announced suspected cases. (A suspected case in Singapore turned out to be a false alarm.)

The mysterious strain has been linked to a seafood market which has been closed for sanitation since Jan. 1. Medical experts are attempting to identify the illness. While they say it is unlikely that this new strain of pneumonia could cause a repeat of 2003’s deadly SARS outbreak in 2003, which killed hundreds in mainland China and spread as far as the U.S. and Canada, they stress that vigilance should not be relaxed.

Here’s what to know about the virus.

How serious is the pneumonia outbreak?

According to Wuhan’s health bureau, 59 patients have been diagnosed with the virus, including seven in critical condition as of Sunday. Some of the patients operated stalls at the seafood market. All of the patients are in quarantine, and 163 people who had been in close contact with them have been placed under medical observation. The World Health Organization says symptoms include fever and difficulty breathing.

How fast is it spreading?

The first case was discovered in Wuhan on Dec. 12, the city’s health bureau says. On Sunday, authorities in Hong Kong reported that nine more patients were found to have fever or respiratory symptoms after returning from Wuhan, bringing the number of cases in the city to 17.

How are authorities outside China responding?

Governments are stepping up precautionary measures in the wake of the outbreak. Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority has imposed shorter visiting hours at hospitals and is requiring all visitors to wear face masks. The city has also enhanced the airport’s thermal imaging system to screen the temperatures of travelers coming from Wuhan. Additional manpower has been assigned to the train station that connects the city to mainland China to carry out temperature checks.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced Thursday that it is implementing temperature screenings for travelers arriving on flights from Wuhan. Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control has asked doctors and airport quarantine officials to notify the bureau of patients who have traveled to Wuhan and exhibit any symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is monitoring the situation and “in close contact with national authorities in China.”

Could this evolve into a large-scale outbreak like SARS?

Wuhan’s health bureau said that the viral pneumonia is not SARS, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) or bird flu. It also said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but medical experts have expressed their reservations. “They did not exclude this possibility completely,” Leo Poon, a virologist and SARS expert at the University of Hong Kong, tells TIME.

Still, the fact that there have not been any deaths so far — 10% of those who contracted SARS in 2003 died — is reason to believe that the outbreak will not take a more serious turn, Poon adds.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, says there have been marked advances in scientific research and laboratory diagnostic capabilities since the SARS outbreak over a decade ago.

“It is highly unlikely that this will lead to a major 2003-like epidemic,” Yuen says, “though we cannot be complacent.”

Japan Vows to Strengthen Border Checks and Bail Conditions after Ghosn’s Flight

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 09:38 PM PST

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s justice minister vowed Monday to strengthen border departure checks and review bail conditions after Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, fled the country.

Masako Mori told reporters at a news conference the ministry has already acted to prevent a recurrence but declined to give details.

She was asked about reports that Ghosn had hidden in a box and that baggage checks at a regional airport might have been insufficient.

Ghosn skipped bail while awaiting trial on various financial misconduct allegations and later said from Lebanon that he did it to escape injustice.

Mori declined to say who might be held responsible for such a high-profile flight, stressing it was still under investigation.

She said Ghosn left illegally, denouncing it as an “unjustifiable” crime.

“Japan’s justice system allows investigating the facts while it ensures the individual basic human rights at the same time,” Mori told reporters at the ministry.

“It is set with appropriate procedures and it is operated appropriately.”

But she acknowledged the case was being looked at under an ongoing review of the nation’s judicial system, including introducing electronic tethers to monitor those out on bail.

“We are aware of the criticisms,” Mori said, referring to human rights advocates’ descriptions of Japan’s legal system as “hostage justice.”

Ghosn and others say Japan’s system takes too long and is inhumane. Ghosn was banned from meeting with his wife while out on bail. Preparing for his trial has taken about a year, and a date has not been set. Ghosn was detained, twice, for a total of 130 days before he was released on bail a second time.

Mori said each nation has its own judicial system and arrests are rarer in Japan than in other countries, suggesting arrests are made only when the authorities are fairly confident they have a case.

“Simple comparisons are misleading,” she said.

Details of Ghosn’s stunning escape last week are unclear. But Turkish airline company MNG Jet said two of its planes were used illegally, first flying him from Osaka, Japan, to Istanbul, and then on to Beirut, where he arrived last Monday and has not been seen since.

Ghosn promised to talk to reporters on Wednesday. His lawyers in Japan said they knew nothing about the escape and felt betrayed by his action.

Once an auto industry superstar, Ghosn was first arrested in November 2018. While out on bail, he was living in a home in an upscale part of Tokyo under strict surveillance as part of the conditions for his release. That raises questions about how he left undetected.

Security cameras at his home operated 24 hours a day, but the footage only had to be submitted to the court on a monthly basis, according to lawyers’ documents detailing Ghosn’s bail conditions.

Ghosn had been charged with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust in diverting Nissan money for his personal gain. He insists he is innocent.

His bail has been revoked, and Interpol has issued a wanted notice. Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, but Mori left open the possibility Japan could seek Ghosn’s return.

She did not give details and stressed that any retaliatory action, such as economic sanctions, must be decided on very carefully.

She also declined to say whether Japan contacted the U.S. or France for help, and how they might be working together.

“It is indeed possible to ask for extradition of criminals based on the principle of reciprocity,” she said in replying to a reporter’s question about Lebanon.

“But, upon doing that, we need to carefully study whether it is possible to guarantee this principle of reciprocity and their internal justice system.”

Two More Missing in Australian Wildfires As Rain Brings Some Relief

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 07:09 PM PST

(SYDNEY) — Two more people are missing in remote parts of New South Wales as rain and cooler temperatures brought some measure of relief Monday to Australian communities battling wildfires.

But the rain was also making it challenging for fire crews to complete strategic burns as they tried to prepare for higher temperatures that have been forecast for later in the week.

The wildfires have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland. They have killed at least 24 people and destroyed about 2,000 homes.

More than 135 bushfires were still burning across the state, including almost 70 that were uncontained. The Rural Fire Service is warning the rain won’t put out the largest and most dangerous blazes before conditions deteriorate again this week.

Australia’s capital, Canberra, had the worst air quality of any major city in the world on Monday morning. The Department of Home Affairs, which is responsible for coordinating the country’s response to disasters, told all non-critical staff to stay home because of the abysmal air quality.

“With the more benign weather conditions it presents some wonderful relief for everybody, the firefighters, the emergency services personnel, but also the communities affected by these fires,” Shane Fitzsimmons, the Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, told reporters. “But it also presents some real challenges when it comes to implementing tactical and strategic back-burns and other techniques to try and bring these fires under control.”

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that there was no room for complacency.

“Unfortunately, overnight, it’s become apparent that we have two people unaccounted for in New South Wales,” she said at a news conference, adding she still held out hope for some good news to emerge about them.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under criticism for his response to the fires. He said this week that there has been plenty of blame thrown around, but that the commentary has not been productive.

Morrison announced on Saturday he would dispatch 3,000 army, navy and air force reservists to help battle the fires. He also committed 20 million Australian dollars ($14 million) to lease firefighting aircraft from overseas.

But the moves did little to tamp down the criticism that he had been slow to act, even as he has downplayed the need for his government to address climate change, which experts say helps supercharge the blazes.

Australians know to expect summer wildfires. But the blazes arrived early this year, fed by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record.

Scientists say there’s no doubt man-made global warming has played a major role in feeding the fires, along with factors like very dry brush and trees and strong winds.

Morrison, chided for past remarks minimizing the need to address climate change, has deflected criticism while trying to change his tone.

He has faced widespread criticism for taking a family vacation in Hawaii at the start of the wildfire crisis, as well as for his sometimes distracted approach as the disaster has escalated and his slowness in deploying resources.

His handling of the deployment of reservists also came in for criticism. Fitzsimmons, who is leading the fight in New South Wales, said he learned of the deployment through media reports.

“It is fair to say it was disappointing and some surprise to hear about these things through public announcements in the middle of what was one of our worst days this season, with the second-highest number of concurrent emergency warning fires ever in the history of New South Wales,” he said.

Morrison was also forced to defend a video posted on social media Saturday that promoted the deployment of reservists and the government’s response to the wildfires.

Venezuela Opposition Leader Guaido Blocked From Congress Voting Session as Conflict with Maduro Deepens

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 06:46 PM PST

(CARACAS, Venezuela) — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was violently blocked Sunday from presiding over a special session of congress where rivals proclaimed a substitute leader — moves opposition officials condemned as a hijacking of the country’s last democratic institution.

Hours later, however, a majority of congress members held an emergency meeting at an opposition newspaper office and voted to reelect Guaidó as their leader.

Guaidó — whose legal challenge to the socialist government has been based on his role as head of congress — headed a small group of lawmakers trying to access the neoclassical palace where the opposition-controlled National Assembly was set to elect its leader.

But they were pushed back by national guardsmen wielding heavy riot shields. As scuffles broke out, the U.S.-backed leader tried to mount an iron fence surrounding the legislature, only to be repelled again. His blue suit was ripped apart during the chaotic standoff.

Inside, the situation was similarly rowdy, as a rival slate headed by lawmaker Luis Parra were sworn in as legislative leaders. Opposition leaders immediately denounced the session as a “show” carried out by a group of “traitors” paid off by President Nicolás Maduro.

They complained Parra’s election was invalid on numerous grounds — arguing the session was never officially opened, no quorum count was taken and no formal vote was called — merely a rushed show of hands as socialist deputies stormed the dais

When they gathered later for an impromptu session at the El Nacional newspaper, the last major daily critical of the socialist government, 100 of the legislature’s 167 members voted to reelect Guaidó for the final year of the Assembly’s 2015-2020 term. Several of the lawmakers who have been forced into exile were represented by alternates at the impromptu session.

“The dictatorship has once again committed another mistake,” said Guaidó shortly after being sworn in.

Still, senior Maduro officials celebrated the gambit as a comeuppance for the 36-year-old lawmaker, who has been struggling to maintain unity in the unwieldy opposition coalition.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming would happen,” Maduro said at an event inaugurating a baseball stadium near Caracas. “The entire country repudiates Juan Guaidó as a puppet of American imperialism.”

Parra, meanwhile, called a session for Tuesday, setting up a fight over the rival claims to the legislature’s leadership in the days ahead.

A year ago, Guaidó asserted at a street demonstration that his position as legislative leader made him Venezuela’s interim president in place of the “usurper” Maduro, whose 2018 reelection has been rejected as invalid by the legislature, as well as by the U.S., European Union and several Latin American governments. Key opposition figures were barred from running in that election.

There was no indication of weakening support among the more than 50 governments that recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader. The European Union said it would continue to recognize Guaidó, Brazil’s government called the initial session an “affront to democracy,” and the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Latin America called Sunday’s events in the chamber a “farce.”

“This morning’s phony National Assembly session lacked a legal quorum. There was no vote,” Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak said on Twitter.

Meanwhile Argentina’s newly installed leftist government, which has been at pains to distance itself from the conservative-led backlash against Maduro in Latin America, also criticized the move.

“To impede by force the functioning of the legislative assembly is to condemn oneself to international isolation,” Argentina’s Foreign Minister Felipe Solá said on Twitter. ”The course to follow is exactly the opposite. The asssembly should choose its president with complete legitimacy.”

Guaidó faced a major test in uniting articulating a new vision in his campaign to remove Maduro. But his reelection for a second straight year as head of congress had been widely expected.

The weeks leading up to Sunday’s vote were marked by tension, with the opposition denouncing a covert government campaign to intimidate and bribe lawmakers into voting against Guaidó.

Parra is one of a small handful of lawmakers who recently broke with Guaidó and have since been expelled from their parties for alleged involvement in a corruption scandal involving allies of Maduro.

Socialist lawmakers argued that Guaido’s absence forced them to initiate their session without him. But opposition lawmakers had faced challenges from security forces who set up several barricades downtown.

At one checkpoint, security forces demanded that each lawmaker present credentials, arguing they were under orders to deny entry to several lawmakers banned from carrying out their duties by the loyalist supreme court.

“Is your family in Venezuela?” Guaidó asked the young police officers, who stood firmly in nervous silence.

“Today you’re complicit with the dictatorship, you’re complicit with those who are responsible for the hunger inside Venezuela,” he added.

Support for Guaidó inside the opposition has taken a hit since several minority parties in November splintered off to create a separate bloc to negotiate directly with Maduro — something that Guaidó has refused, arguing that talks are simply a time-buying exercise aimed at keeping Maduro in power.

The small group of opposition lawmakers who broke with Guaidó argue that in stubbornly sticking to a naive plan of removing Maduro by force, he has put his political ambitions above the needs of Venezuelans who have largely tuned out from the political fight while enduring an economy in shambles and under stiff U.S. sanctions.

“In 2019 you represented the hopes of the nation, but today you’re its biggest deception,” said José Brito, one of the lawmakers who turned against Guaidó.

Venezuela sits atop vast oil and mineral resources, but it has been imploding economically and socially in recent years. Critics blame the plunge on years of failed socialist rule and corruption, while Maduro’s allies say U.S. sanctions are taking a toll on the economy. The South American nation’s 30 million people suffer soaring inflation and shortages of gasoline, running water and electricity, among basic services.

An estimated 4.5 million Venezuelans have abandoned their nation in an exodus rivaling war-torn Syria.

Maduro, who took over after the 2013 death of former President Hugo Chávez, says Guaidó is a puppet of the United States. Maduro also says he’s determined to win control of the National Assembly in elections later this year.

Maduro maintains military backing and control over most branches of the government, despite the deepening crisis.

“Guaidó will have to not only re-energize his base and convince them to stay engaged, but keep his coalition in line as well,” said Geoff Ramsey, a researcher at the Washington Office on Latin America. “And the clock is ticking.”

President Trump Doubles Down on Striking Cultural Sites in Iran

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 05:34 PM PST

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump insists that Iranian cultural sites are fair game for the U.S. military, dismissing concerns within his own administration that doing so could constitute a war crime under international law. He also warned Iraq that he would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian official.

Trump’s comments Sunday came amid escalating tensions in the Middle East following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds force. Iran has vowed to retaliate and Iraq’s parliament responded by voting Sunday to oust U.S. troops based in the country.

Trump first raised the prospect of targeting Iranian cultural sites Saturday in a tweet. Speaking with reporters Sunday as he flew back to Washington from his holiday stay in Florida, he doubled down, despite international prohibitions.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said.

The targeted killing of Soleimani sparked outrage in the Middle East, including in Iraq, where more than 5,000 American troops are still on the ground 17 years after the U.S. invasion. Iraq’s parliament voted Sunday in favor of a nonbinding resolution calling for the expulsion of the American forces.

Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t leave without being paid for its military investments in Iraq over the years — then said if the troops do have to withdraw, he would hit Baghdad with economic penalties.

“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” he said. “If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”

He added: “We’re not leaving until they pay us back for it.”

The administration has scrambled to contend with the backlash to the killing of Soleimani. Though he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, the targeted American strike marked a stark escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. military may well strike more Iranian leaders if the Islamic Republic retaliates. He tip-toed around questions about Trump’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites, a military action that likely would be illegal under the laws of armed conflict and the U.N. charter.

Pompeo said only that any U.S. military strikes inside Iran would be legal.

“We’ll behave inside the system,” Pompeo said. “We always have and we always will.”

Trump’s warnings rattled some administration officials. One U.S. national security official said the president had caught many in the administration off guard and prompted internal calls for others in the government, including Pompeo, to clarify the matter. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly to the issue, said clarification was necessary to affirm that the U.S. military would not intentionally commit war crimes.

Oona Hathaway, an international law professor at Yale and a former national security law official in the Defense Department’s legal office, said Trump’s threat amounted to “a pretty clear promise of commission of a war crime.”

The president’s threats to Iran did little to quell Tehran’s furor over the death of Soleimani. Iranian state television reported that the country would no longer abide by any limits of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with the United States and other world powers. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018 and stepped up economic sanctions on Tehran — actions that accelerated a cycle of hostilities leading to the last week’s killing.

The administration also pushed back Sunday on questions about the legality of the strike on Soleimani. Pompeo said the administration would have been “culpably negligent” in its duty to protect the United States if it had not killed him. He did not provide evidence for his previous claims that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans. Instead of arguing that an attack had been imminent, he said it was inevitable.

“We watched him continue to actively build out for what was going to be a significant attack – that’s what we believed – and we made the right decision,” he said, adding later: “We continue to prepare for whatever it is the Iranian regime may put in front of us within the next 10 minutes, within the next 10 days, and within the next 10 weeks.”

Congressional Democrats were skeptical.

“I really worry that the actions the president took will get us into what he calls another endless war in the Middle East. He promised we wouldn’t have that,” said Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate’s top Democrat.

Schumer said Trump lacks the authority to engage militarily with Iran and Congress needs a new war powers resolution “to be a check on this president.” To which Pompeo said: “We have all the authority we need to do what we’ve done to date.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the administration violated the Constitution by not consulting with Congress in advance.

Congressional staffs got their first briefings from the administration on Friday, and members were expected to be briefed this week.

But Trump made clear Sunday that he saw little reason to give Congress advanced warning if he orders the military to carry out further actions against Iran.

“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” he wrote on Twitter. “Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

Democrats in Congress have complained that Trump’s order to kill Soleimani took place without first consulting with or informing top lawmakers, noting that Congress still holds sole power to declare war. Trump did meet the 48-hour deadline required by the War Powers Act to notify Congress of the deadly drone strike, though the document provided Saturday was entirely classified and no public version was released.

Moving swiftly to rebuke Trump for not consulting with Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Sunday the House would introduce and vote this week on a war powers resolution to limit the president’s military actions regarding Iran. In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi called the airstrike “provocative and disproportionate” and that it had “endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.” A similar resolution was introduced in the Senate.

Some of the Democrats running to challenge Trump in November questioned whether he had a long-term plan for the Mideast.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump was ill-prepared for the repercussions of the strike on Soleimani and had alienated allies by not alerting them of the plans. “I think we need a president who could provide steady leadership on Day One,” he said. “The next president is going to inherit a divided nation and a world in disarray.”

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. said: “When you’re dealing with the Middle East, you need to think about the next and the next and the next move. This is not checkers. And I’m not sure any of us really believe that this president and the people around him” are “really going through all of the consequences of what could happen next.”

Pompeo appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,”’ CBS’ “Face the Nation,” ”Fox News Sunday” and Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” Schumer was on ABC, Warner was on NBC and Buttigieg was on CNN.

Iraqis Push for U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Symbolic Vote

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 01:11 PM PST

The Iraqi parliament approved a draft bill Sunday requiring the government to ask Washington to withdraw American troops from the country. The move is largely symbolic, as it sets no timetable for withdrawal and is subject to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s approval. But it reflects mounting volatility facing U.S. forces in the region, and the uncertainty of U.S. strategic interests there in the wake of the American drone strike that killed a top Iranian official Thursday.

During the Iraqi parliament’s emergency session, in which some members repeatedly chanted “no to America,” Mahdi revealed new information about the run up to the American drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, a prominent Iranian military leader who commanded the country’s elite Quds Force. Mahdi said President Donald Trump called him and asked him to mediate with Iran even as the American president was secretly ordering Soleimani’s killing. Mahdi also said he was set to meet Soleimani, who was carrying a response to an initiative from Saudi Arabia intended to deescalate tensions.

Mahdi urged parliament to rescind its 2014 invitation to U.S. forces, which was made when ISIS was embarking on a lightning offensive across Iraq and Syria that ultimately resulted in the militant group capturing territory roughly the size of Britain. He stressed that a timetable be established so an orderly withdrawal could be carried out.

But parliament’s resolution amounts to a symbolic measure, as the current caretaker government doesn’t have the legal power to carry it out, Farhad Alaaldin, former advisor to Iraqi President Barham Saleh tells TIME. “It would be up to the new government to take this forward,” said Alaaldin, now chairman of Baghdad-based think tank Iraq Advisory Council. Mahdi has been a caretaker prime minister since he resigned after weeks of mass protests over government corruption this past fall.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shrugged off the vote as that of a resigned prime minister “under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that we are pushing back against… We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counter-terror campaign,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

But the symbolic vote nevertheless matters as a sign of the uncertainty and volatility sweeping the region in the wake of Soleimani’s death.

Kurdish and Sunni politicians largely boycotted the vote. Those two groups fear a U.S. troop departure would result in other allied countries withdrawing, and would trigger a flight of Western investment. “If the U.S. training mission leaves, you can expect a fairly quick departure of other foreign missions including NATO, for a host of reasons, among them, force protection,” says Barbara Leaf, a former U.S. ambassador now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Most factions also fear a U.S. departure could produce a resurgence of ISIS. While ISIS has largely been defeated in Iraq, thousands of fighters remain and continue to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria. American forces remain in both countries to ensure the surviving militants do not regain power and territory.

Even before the Iraqi vote Sunday, the U.S.-led military coalition said it has “paused” training and operations to counter the terror group in Iraq in order to protect bases from outside attack. The announcement came after the drone strike against Soleimani.

Iranian officials have promised “harsh revenge” for Soleimani’s assassination, which Trump responded to by threatening to target “52 Iranian sites,” including “some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif counter-tweeted that targeting sites of cultural significance is a war crime.

A U.S. military official said on Sunday that he was unfamiliar with any list of exactly 52 targets. “There are different lists, depending on the nature of the possible targets — missile bases, nuclear facilities, naval bases, airfields, et cetera — but I don’t know of a list that adds up to that number or one that includes cultural or historic sites like Persepolis.”

The decision to kill Soleimani, carried out on Trump’s order, caught U.S. military and intelligence officials by surprise. One senior military official familiar with the proposed retaliatory actions for further Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. or coalition forces said the only more severe measure would have been strikes on Quds Force bases or leaders inside Iran, which some officials warned would have been a clear act of war.

Intelligence officials also had warned of an Iraqi popular and political backlash against stepped-up U.S. strikes on Shiite militias, especially against a backdrop of previous civilian casualties. But on Saturday and Sunday three officials said it was not clear whether Trump had considered that warning and others about Iranian retaliation in making his decision. “Many Iraqis, especially among the majority Shiites, don’t think of us as liberators, but as occupiers,” said one former military intelligence officer who served multiple tours in Iraq.

Over the past six months, Iranian-backed proxy forces has been accused of several attacks in the region, including a recent rocket attack on a military base in Iraq, which killed an American contractor and injured four U.S. service members working to fight ISIS, also known as Daesh. “Our first priority is protecting all Coalition personnel committed to the defeat of Daesh. Repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kata’ib Hezbollah have caused the death of Iraqi Security Forces personnel and a U.S. civilian,” the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement. “As a result we are now fully committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host coalition troops. This has limited our capacity to conduct training with partners and to support their operations against and we have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review.”

The coalition issued its statement before the Iraqi parliamentary vote, but added: “We remain resolute as partners of the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people that have welcomed us into their country to help defeat ISIS,” the statement said. “We remain ready to return our full attention and efforts back to our shared goal of ensuring the lasting defeat of Daesh.”

–with reporting by John Walcott/Washington

Iran Abandons 2015 Nuclear Deal Over U.S. Killing Gen. Soleimani

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 10:23 AM PST

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Sunday it would no longer abide by any of the limits of its unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, abandoning the accord’s key provisions that block Tehran from having enough material to build an atomic weapon.

Iran insisted in a state television broadcast it remained open to negotiations with European partners, who so far have been unable to offer Tehran a way to sell its crude oil abroad despite U.S. sanctions. It also didn’t back off of earlier promises that it wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement Sunday represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in May 2018. It also further raises regional tensions, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to be able to produce an atomic bomb.

The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the U.S. killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani, the former leader of its expeditionary Quds Force that organizes Tehran’s proxy forces in the wider Mideast.

The leader of one such proxy, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, said Soleimani’s killing made U.S. military bases, warships and service members spread across the region fair targets for attacks. A former Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and “centers” like Tel Aviv could be targeted.

 

 

Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities.

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has in a statement announced its fifth and final step in reducing Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA,” a state TV broadcaster said, using an acronym for the deal. “The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations.”

It did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”

Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament voted in favor of a resolution calling for an end of the foreign military presence in their nation, an effort aimed at expelling the 5,000 U.S. troops stationed there over the war against the Islamic State group.

Soleimani’s killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. The conflict is rooted in Trump pulling out of Iran’s atomic accord and imposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Iran has promised “harsh revenge” for the U.S. attack, which shocked Iranians across all political lines. Many saw Soleimani as a pillar of the Islamic Republic at a moment when it is beset by U.S. sanctions and recent anti-government protests.

Retaliation for Soleimani could potentially come through the proxy forces which he oversaw. Soleimani’s longtime deputy Esmail Ghaani already has taken over as the Quds Force’s commander.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia separately warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.”

Late Saturday, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad fell inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.

Trump wrote on Twitter afterward that the U.S. had already “targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

Trump did not identify the targets but added that they would be “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the U.S. is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.” However, such sites can be targeted if they have been re-purposed and turned into a legitimate “military objective,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Iran, home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, has in the past reportedly guarded the sprawling tomb complex of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with surface-to-air missiles.

After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, authorities flew the general’s body to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. An honor guard stood by early Sunday as mourners carried the flag-draped coffins of Soleimani and other Guard members off the tarmac.

The caskets then moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani’s portrait. Demonstrators also carried red Shiite flags, which traditionally both symbolize the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and call for their deaths to be avenged.

Officials brought Soleimani’s body to Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the bloody, 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran in which the general slowly grew to prominence. After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds, or Jersualem, Force, an expeditionary force that works with Iranian proxy forces in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Authorities then took Soleimani’s body to the city of Mashhad later Sunday. State TV estimated that a million mourners came out to the Imam Reza shrine to pay their respects, although that number could not be independently verified. Soleimani’s remains will go to Tehran and Qom on Monday for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial Tuesday.

This marks the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Khomeini received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will lie in state at Tehran’s famed Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him.

Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional policy of mobilizing militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, including in the war against the Islamic State group. He was also blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back decades.

Although it’s unclear how or when Iran may respond, any retaliation was likely to come after three days of mourning declared in both Iran and Iraq.

Mohsen Rezaei, a former leader of the Guard, told a crowd of mourners in Tehran that the Israeli city of Haifa and other “centers” like Tel Aviv could be targeted. Rezaei earlier alleged without offering evidence that Israel leaked information to the U.S. about Soleimani’s whereabouts, which allowed them to carry out the drone strike.

“Rest assured we will level to the ground Haifa and Israeli centers so that Israel will be wiped out,” he said. “The issue is very serious for the Iranian nation. You hit us and you should get hit. You attacked us and it is the Iranian nation’s right.”

Iranian officials planned to meet Sunday night to discuss taking a fifth step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, one that could be even greater than planned, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists.

“In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected,” Mousavi said.

Iran previously has broken limits of its enrichment, its stockpiles and its centrifuges, as well as restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

The Iranian parliament on Sunday opened with lawmakers in unison chanting: “Death to America!” Parliament speaker Ali Larijani compared Soleimani’s killing to the 1953 CIA-backed coup that cemented the shah’s power and to the U.S. Navy’s shootdown of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 that killed 290 people. He also described American officials as following “the law of the jungle.”

Rain fell at the shrine in Mashhad late Sunday as an imam delivered a sermon over the coffins of Soleimani and others stood. The crowd surged and shouted as he preached. Mourners threw clothing up to officials accompanying the remains to have the fabric be brushed against the caskets in a belief it would carry God’s blessings to them.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

Three Americans Killed in Kenya as Al-Shabab Overruns Key Military Base

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 08:53 AM PST

NAIROBI, Kenya — Al-Shabab extremists overran a key military base used by U.S. counterterror forces in Kenya before dawn Sunday, killing three American Department of Defense personnel and destroying several U.S. aircraft and vehicles before they were repelled, U.S. and Kenyan authorities said.

The attack on the Manda Bay Airfield was the al-Qaida-linked group’s first attack against U.S. forces in the East African country, and the military called the security situation “fluid” several hours after the assault.

Five attackers were killed, Kenyan military spokesman Paul Njuguna said.

Al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility for the assault.

One U.S. serviceman and two contractors with the U.S. Department of Defense were killed in the fighting, according to a statement issued late Sunday by the U.S. Africa Command, or Africom.

The attack on the compound “involved indirect and small arms fire. After an initial penetration of the perimeter, Kenya Defense Forces and U.S. Africa Command repelled the al-Shabaab attack,” said the AFRICOM statement. “Reports indicate that six contractor-operated civilian aircraft were damaged to some degree. Manda Bay Airfield is utilized by U.S. forces whose missions include providing training to our African partners, responding to crises, and protecting U.S. interests in this strategically important area.”

Al-Shabab claimed that there were 17 U.S. casualties, nine Kenyan soldiers killed and seven aircraft destroyed. The U.S. Africa Command dismissed the al-Shabab claims as exaggerated and said U.S. and Kenyan forces repelled the attack.

Kenya is a key base for fighting al-Shabab, one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations. A large plume of black smoke rose above the airfield Sunday and residents said a car bomb had exploded. Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia told The Associated Press that five suspects were arrested and were being interrogated.

An internal Kenyan police report seen by the AP said two fixed-wing aircraft, a U.S. Cessna and a Kenyan one, were destroyed along with two U.S. helicopters and multiple U.S. vehicles at the Manda Bay military airstrip. The report said explosions were heard at around 5:30 a.m. from the direction of the airstrip. The scene, now secured, indicated that al-Shabab likely entered “to conduct targeted attacks,” the report said.

The U.S. military said only that “initial reports reflect damage to infrastructure and equipment.” The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority said the airstrip was closed for all operations.

The military’s Camp Simba in Lamu county, established more than a decade ago, has under 100 U.S. personnel, according to Pentagon figures. U.S. forces at the adjoining Manda Bay airfield train and give counterterror support to East African partners. A U.S. flag-raising at the camp in August signaled its change “from tactical to enduring operations,” the Air Force said at the time.

According to another internal Kenyan police report seen by the AP, dated Friday, a villager that day said he had spotted 11 suspected al-Shabab members entering Lamu’s Boni forest, which the extremists have used as a hideout. The report said Kenyan authorities didn’t find them.

Al-Shabab has launched a number of attacks inside Kenya, including against civilian targets such as buses, schools and shopping malls. The group has been the target of a growing number of U.S. airstrikes inside Somalia during President Donald Trump’s administration.

The latest attack comes just over a week after an al-Shabab truck bomb in Somalia’s capital killed at least 79 people and U.S. airstrikes killed seven al-Shabab fighters in response.

Last year, al-Shabab attacked a U.S. military base inside Somalia, Baledogle, that is used to launch drone strikes but reportedly failed to make their way inside. The extremist group also has carried out multiple attacks against Kenyan troops in the past in retaliation for Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight it.

This attack marks a significant escalation of al-Shabab’s campaign of attacks inside Kenya, said analyst Andrew Franklin, a former U.S. Marine and longtime Kenya resident.

“Launching a deliberate assault of this type against a well-defended permanent base occupied by (Kenya Defence Forces), contractors and U.S. military personnel required a great deal of planning, rehearsals, logistics and operational capability,” he said. Previous attacks against security forces have mainly been ambushes on Kenyan army or police patrols.

The early Sunday attack comes days after a U.S. airstrike killed Iran’s top military commander and Iran vowed retaliation, but al-Shabab is a Sunni Muslim group and there is no sign of links to Shiite Iran or proxies.

“No, this attack was no way related to that incident” in the Middle East, an al-Shabab spokesman told the AP on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

One analyst, Rashid Abdi, in Twitter posts discussing the attack, agreed, but added that Kenyan security services have long been worried that Iran was trying to cultivate ties with al-Shabab.

“Avowedly Wahhabist Al-Shabaab not natural ally of Shia Iran, hostile, even. But if Kenyan claims true, AS attack may have been well-timed to signal to Iran it is open for tactical alliances,” he wrote.

But a former member of the U.N. committee monitoring sanctions on Somalia, Jay Bahadur, said in a tweet that “the attack is far more related to AS wanting a do over on their spectacular failure at Baledogle four months ago.”

When asked whether the U.S. military was looking into any Iranian link to the attack, U.S. Africa Command spokesman Col. Christopher Karns said only that “al-Shabab, affiliated with al-Qaida, has their own agenda and have made clear their desire to attack U.S. interests.”

The al-Shabab claim of responsibility said Sunday’s attack was part of its “Jerusalem will never be Judaized” campaign, a rarely made reference that also was used after al-Shabab’s deadly attack on a luxury mall complex in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, in January 2019.

Somalia’s government, which is fighting al-Shabab with the help of a multinational African force, The Federal Republic of Somalia joins the rest of the world in condemning the cowardly attack that targeted joint Kenyan and U.S forces based at Manda Bay Airfield, Kenya earlier today.

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Anna contributed from Johannesburg

Hezbollah Vows to End U.S. Military Presence in Middle East

Posted: 05 Jan 2020 07:59 AM PST

(TEHRAN, Iran) — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group vowed Sunday to end the U.S. military’s presence in the Middle East, saying U.S. bases, warships and soldiers were all fair targets following the recent U.S. killing of an Iranian general.

Hassan Nasrallah said the U.S. military “will pay the price” for the U.S. drone strike that killed Gen Qasem Soleimani in Iraq Friday. His comments further heightened tensions in a region already on high alert and bracing for Iranian retaliation.

President Donald Trump has threatened to bomb 52 sites in Iran if it retaliates by attacking Americans. Iran vowed to take an even-greater step away from its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers as a response to Soleimani’s slaying.

“The suicide attackers who forced the Americans to leave from our region in the past are still here and their numbers have increased,” Nasrallah said.

It was not clear which suicide bombings Nasrallah was referring to. A 1983 attack on a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon killed 241 U.S. servicemen. President Ronald Reagan eventually withdrew all American forces from the country. Suicide bombings in Iraq in the 2000s also put pressure on the Americans to withdraw.

Nasrallah spoke from an undisclosed location, and his speech was played on large screens for thousands of Shiite followers in southern Beirut, interrupted occasionally by chants of “Death to America.” The comments were Nasrallah’s first since Soleimani’s killing.

Nasrallah spoke shortly before the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of a bill to expel the U.S. military from Iraq by canceling the military agreement between the two countries. More than 5,000 U.S. soldiers are in Iraq, based on an invitation by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help fight the Islamic State group.

Earlier Sunday, tens of thousands of mourners accompanied a casket carrying the remains of the slain Soleimani through two major Iranian cities as part of a grand funeral procession across the Islamic Republic for the commander killed by an American drone.

Nasrallah said Soleimani was not only Iran’s concern but the entire so-called “axis of resistance,” a term used to refer to anti-Israel militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. He said it was up to those groups to decide if and how they would retaliate.

He praised Soleimani and said “the shoe of Qasem Soleimani is worth the head of Trump and all American leaders.”

Soleimani’s killing escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. The conflict is rooted in Trump pulling out of Iran’s atomic accord and imposing crippling sanctions.

Iran has promised “harsh revenge” for the U.S. attack, which shocked Iranians across all political lines. Many saw Soleimani as a pillar of the Islamic Republic at a moment when it is beset by U.S. sanctions and recent anti-government protests.

Retaliation for Soleimani could potentially come through the proxy forces which he oversaw as the head of an elite unit within the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Soleimani’s longtime deputy Esmail Ghaani already has taken over as the Quds Force’s commander.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia separately warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.”

Late Saturday, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad fell inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.

Trump wrote on Twitter afterward that the U.S. had already “targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

Trump did not identify the targets but added that they would be “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the U.S. is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.” However, such sites can be targeted if they have been re-purposed and turned into a legitimate “military objective,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Iran, home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, has in the past reportedly guarded the sprawling tomb complex of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with surface-to-air missiles.

After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, authorities flew the general’s body to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. An honor guard stood by early Sunday as mourners carried the flag-draped coffins of Soleimani and other Guard members off the tarmac.

The caskets then moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani’s portrait. Demonstrators also carried red Shiite flags, which traditionally both symbolize the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and call for their deaths to be avenged.

Officials brought Soleimani’s body to Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the bloody, 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran in which the general slowly grew to prominence. After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds, or Jersualem, Force, an expeditionary force that works with Iranian proxy forces in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Authorities then took Soleimani’s body to Mashhad later Sunday. His remains will go to Tehran and Qom on Monday for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial Tuesday.

This marks the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Khomeini received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will lie in state at Tehran’s famed Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him.

Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional policy of mobilizing militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, including in the war against the Islamic State group. He was also blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back decades.

Though it’s unclear how or when Iran may respond, any retaliation was likely to come after three days of mourning declared in both Iran and Iraq.

Iranian officials planned to meet Sunday night to discuss taking a fifth step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, one that could be even greater than planned, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists.

“In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected,” Mousavi said.

Iran previously has broken limits of its enrichment, its stockpiles and its centrifuges, as well as restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

After the airstrike early Friday, the U.S.-led coalition has scaled back operations and boosted “security and defensive measures” at bases hosting coalition forces in Iraq, a coalition official said on condition of anonymity according to regulations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has dispatched another 3,000 troops to neighboring Kuwait, the latest in a series of deployments in recent months as the standoff with Iran has worsened. Protesters held demonstrations in dozens of U.S. cities Saturday over Trump’s decisions to kill Soleimani and deploy more troops to the Mideast.

In a thinly veiled threat, one of the Iran-backed militias, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, called on Iraqi security forces to stay at least a kilometer (0.6 miles) away from U.S. bases starting Sunday night. However, U.S. troops are invariably based in Iraqi military posts alongside local forces.

The Iranian parliament on Sunday opened with lawmakers in unison chanting: “Death to America!” Parliament speaker Ali Larijani compared Soleimani’s killing to the 1953 CIA-backed coup that cemented the shah’s power and to the U.S. Navy’s shootdown of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 that killed 290 people. He also described American officials as following “the law of the jungle.”

“Mr. Trump! This is the voice of Iranian nation. Listen!” Larijani said as lawmakers chanted.

A spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, likewise threatened the U.S. by saying Iran and the “resistance front will decide the time, place and way” revenge will be carried out.

Iraq’s parliament is meeting for an emergency session Sunday. Its government has come under mounting pressure to expel the 5,200 American troops who are based in the country to help prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

The U.S. has ordered all citizens to leave Iraq and temporarily closed its embassy in Baghdad, where Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters had recently staged two days of violent protests in which they breached the compound. Britain and France have warned their citizens to avoid or strictly limit travel in Iraq, as London said it would begin escorting ships through the Strait of Hormuz. Oman, long an interlocutor between Iran and the West, urged Tehran and Washington on Sunday to pursue dialogue.

No one was hurt in the embassy protests, which came in response to U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 Iran-backed militiamen in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. blamed the militia for a rocket attack that killed a U.S. contractor in northern Iraq.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.