US orders more forces to Mideast as tensions soar: Iran update
Mourners packed the streets of Tehran Monday as the world braced for Iran’s response to the U.S. killing in Baghdad of Qassem Soleimani, who ran Iran’s foreign military operations and expanded its influence across the Middle East. Iraq’s parliament reacted by asking the government to work to expel U.S. troops from Iraqi soil, potentially ending a chapter that began with the 2003 invasion. The vote prompted a threat of sanctions from Donald Trump against Iraq, an ally in the fight against Islamic State.
Oil surged above $70, gold rose to the highest in more than six years and equities around the world fell.
Iraqi parliament pushes for expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq. Iran abandons uranium enrichment limits as nuclear deal unravels.
European, Arab leaders urge calm as concerns of escalation grow
U.S. Orders More Forces to Region as Tensions Climb (12:12 a.m.)
The U.S. has ordered additional forces to the Middle East following the deployment of about 3,500 troops from the 82nd Airborne to the region last week. The Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group has been ordered to move the Persian Gulf region from the Mediterranean, where it has been exercising, according to a U.S. official.
The group is composed of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, transport dock ship USS New York and dock/landing ship USS Oak Hill, and includes hundreds of Marines and a helicopter unit.
The group in August completed a multistage exercise off the Virginia coast that included conducting integrated air and missile defense, anti-submarine surface warfare, information and mine warfare, ship maneuvering and live-fire events “designed to tactically prepare surface forces for maritime warfare missions,” according to an earlier Navy release.
Pentagon Chief Esper to Brief Congress on Strike (9:56 p.m.)
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take part in a classified briefing Wednesday for U.S. House and Senate lawmakers on the killing of Soleimani, according to an official familiar with the plans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday he requested a briefing amid questions about the administration’s deliberations before Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani near the airport in Baghdad.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Sunday that the Democrat-led House will introduce and vote on a war powers resolution this week that would limit Trump’s potential military actions regarding Iran. It would stipulate that “if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.”
UN Head Urges Restraint as NATO Faces Questions (8:46 p.m.)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all sides to exercise restraint following the U.S. strike that killed Soleimani.
“I have been following the recent rise in global tensions with great concern,” Guterres said at the UN. “My message is simple and clear: stop escalation, exercise maximum restrain, re-start dialogue.”
Guterres spoke after officials at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels declined to speculate on whether an Iranian retaliation against U.S targets would trigger the alliance’s “collective defense” clause, which obliges all 29 members to respond in solidarity if one is attacked. The clause has been invoked once in the NATO’s 70-year history, after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that any musings on invoking the collective defense clause would only exacerbate tensions, when the objective is to de-escalate it.
The envoys in Brussels sided squarely with the U.S in the dispute with Iran, according to Stoltenberg, condemning Tehran’s “destabilizing” actions in the region, including “support for terrorist groups.”
Zarif Awaiting Visa for Trip to UN This Week (7:22 p.m.)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hasn’t received a visa to travel to the U.S. to attend meetings later this week at the United Nations, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Prior to last week’s strike on Soleimani, Zarif had planned to take part in a debate on Thursday at the UN Security Council on the topic of multilateralism. Even before Soleimani’s killing, the Trump administration often waited until the last moment to approve visas for Zarif and his aides, usually with severe travel restrictions included.
As part of its agreement to host the UN headquarters, the U.S. is obligated to approve visas for official travel to the global body.
The U.S. and Iranian missions to the UN didn’t immediately reply to questions about the status of the visa request. The U.S. mission on Monday slammed Russia and China for blocking a Security Council statement supported by 27 countries speaking out against the “Iran-orchestrated attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad” late last year, a move it said undermined “the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises.”
U.K. Urges Restraint on All Sides’ (15:45 p.m.)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of ministers including Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace later on Monday to discuss the Middle East, and the government “is urging restraint on all sides”.
Briefing reporters in London, Johnson’s spokesman James Slack said all nations have the right to act in self-defense and the U.S. has made clear that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks. But in what will be seen as a warning to the U.S., Slack also pointed out that international conventions exist to prevent the destruction of cultural sites – a reference to Trump’s recent remarks.
The U.K. is also urging the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition against Islamic State “is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat,” Slack said, and Johnson will speak to his counterpart Adel Abdul-Mahdi shortly.
Markets Slide on Iran Fallout (13:35 p.m.)
Stocks extended their losses on Monday and oil built on gains as investors continued to grapple with the aftermath of the killing. Gold surged to the highest in more than six years. Futures for the main American equity gauges retreated for a second session after Iran said over the weekend it would no longer abide by any limits on its enrichment of uranium.
Trump Threat to Attack Iran’s Cultural Treasures Spurs Backlash (13:00 p.m.)
The prospect of an assault on sites like the ancient ruins of Persepolis or the immaculately tiled porticos of Esfahan’s 500-year old Naqshe Jahan Square triggered an immediate backlash across Iran, transcending the country’s deep political divisions.Trump tweeted on Saturday that he had included Iranian cultural sites in his list of 52 targets for attack should Tehran retaliate against the U.S.’s killing of Soleimani.
Mourners Fill Tehran Streets for Soleimani funeral (12:15 p.m.)
Mourners packed downtown boulevards and squares in Tehran, where the bodies of Soleimani and five others killed alongside him awaited burial. Thousands were seated on the ground listening to speeches from Soleimani’s daughter Zainab and Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinian Hamas group.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei performed prayers beside the caskets that were held at Tehran University, often a forum for Friday prayers. Khamenei was surrounded by officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani.
The caskets were then raised and carried through the crowds. Soleimani is due to be buried Tuesday in his southeastern hometown of Kerman.
Italy’s Conte Says Will Discuss Iran De-escalation with Merkel (11:24 a.m.)
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said caution is paramount in the current situation and he will be discussing events in the Middle East with his German counterpart, Angela Merkel. “Right now, all our attention must be focused on averting further escalation, which would risk passing a point of no return,” Conte said in an interview with la Repubblica newspaper published Monday.
Revolutionary Guards Demand End to U.S. Presence in Middle East (11:05 a.m.)
Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards’ air forces, told state TV that the price of the Soleimani’s assassination would be the end of America’s military presence in the region.
“Soleimani will not be avenged with just four missiles or the destruction of a base, not even with killing Trump, they aren’t anywhere near worthy of the blood of this martyr,” he said. “The only thing that can repay the blood of the martyr Soleimani is the complete removal of the U.S. from the region.”
The comments echoed fiery warnings from the head of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, Hassan Nasrallah, who said Sunday Trump would realize he had lost the Middle East when the bodies of American personnel begin to return home in coffins.
Maas Very Concerned’ About Iraqi Instability (11:01 a.m.)
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that he was “very concerned” that the withdrawal of international troops from Iraq could lead to greater instability there.
“The last thing that we all want is a conflagration in the Middle and Near East, as that would significantly alter the security situation in Europe – and not for the better,” Maas said Monday in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.
– With assistance from Arsalan Shahla, Richard Bravo, Nikos Chrysoloras and David Wainer.