On 4 January, the funeral procession for Soleimani, al-Muhandis, and the Iraqi and Iranian militants was held in Baghdad and attended by thousands of mourners who chanted "death to America, death to Israel". Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was also present. The cortege began around Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, a Shiite holy site in Baghdad, before heading to the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound where a state funeral was held. From Baghdad, the procession moved to the Shia holy city of Karbala and on to Najaf, where al-Muhandis and the other Iraqis were buried, while the coffins of Soleimani and the Iranian nationals were sent to Iran. Following the mourning procession in Baghdad, unknown people fired short-range rockets towards the U.S. embassy and at the U.S. Balad Air Base. The U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, said no Americans were harmed by the sporadic rocket attacks on 4 January.
Concerning the provisional nuclear deal with Iran, some critics of the treaty argued that Iran could make a nuclear bomb after expiry of the limited-term nuclear deal. U.S. President Donald Trump also criticized the 15-year nuclear deal with Iran, particularly the Obama administration's cash payout of $1.7 billion to Iran. Tensions rose between Iran and the U.S. in 2018 after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions against Iran—which severely affected Iran's economy—as a part of his administration's strategy of applying "maximum pressure" against Iran for the purpose of establishing a new nuclear deal.More Info
In contrast, according to The Washington Post on 4 January 2020, Trump wanted to kill Soleimani to avoid the appearance of weakness amid the ongoing Persian Gulf crisis, since his decision to call off an airstrike against Iran in summer 2019 after the downing of a U.S. drone had led to what he perceived as negative media coverage. Lawmakers and aides who had spoken to him told the Post that the president also had the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya on his mind. Furthermore, Mike Pompeo had discussed killing Soleimani with Trump months before the strike, but did not garner support from the president or the defense team then in place. However, according to The Wall Street Journal on 10 January 2020, Trump purportedly told associates after the strike that he was motivated to strike Soleimani for domestic political gain, particularly to sway Republican Senators to support him in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial.More Info
A spokesman for the Iranian government said the country's top security body would hold an extraordinary meeting shortly to discuss the "criminal act of attack". Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that "retaliation is waiting". On 4 January, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there was "no specific, credible" threat to the U.S. mainland but warned about Iranian capabilities. Trump warned Tehran that any retaliation would result in the U.S. targeting 52 Iranian significant sites, including cultural sites. The 52 sites were reported to represent the 52 American hostages held during the Iran hostage crisis. Hossein Dehghan, the main military adviser of Iran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asserted that attacks on Iranian cultural sites would be grave breaches of international law. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo avoided a direct answer when asked about cultural targets, saying that Washington will do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with U.S. law. U.S. secretary of defense Mark Esper later asserted that cultural sites would not be targeted because "That's the laws of armed conflict."More Info
These activities preceded escalating concern and terror designations of Soleimani by the Obama administration. The first such designation was made in May, 2011, in response to Soleimani's assistance to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate in the violent suppression of Syrian protestors. The second, and more serious designation by the Obama administration came in October, 2011, after a plot was revealed in which four senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officers were planning to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador while in the United States, under the supervision of Soleimani.More Info
Soleimani's killing sharply escalated tensions between the U.S. and Iran and stoked fears of a military conflict. Iranian leaders vowed revenge, while U.S. officials said they would preemptively attack any Iran-backed paramilitary groups in Iraq that they perceived as a threat. Many in the international community reacted with concern and issued statements or declarations urging restraint and diplomacy. Five days after the airstrike, Iran launched a series of missile attacks on U.S. forces based in Iraq, the first direct engagement between Iran and the U.S. since the naval battle precipitating the Vincennes incident on 3 July 1988. Following the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 amidst the escalation, leaders from both countries seemed reluctant to further escalate the crisis.More Info
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