Both China and Russia on Friday urged all sides to cease further escalation after an Iranian military general was killed by the United States.
Qassem Soleimani, a major-general and head of dreaded Quds Force under Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on January 2. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, also called Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq, was also killed in the strike.
The U.S. military headquarters confirmed President Donald Trump ordered the killing in apparent retaliation over a pro-Iran mob attack at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last week.
Mr Soleimani was seen as the brain behind Iran’s covert operations across the Middle-East.
“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday according to Agence France-Press. “We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”
Italian RIA news agency said Russian foreign ministry warned that Mr Soleimani’s death could force the situation to spiral out of control, but also urged restraint amongst all parties.
Both Russia and China are members of the United Nations Security Council. Oil markets opened higher on Friday following the development.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei vowed to take “severe revenge” over the U.S. action, mourning Mr Soleimani as a martyr who was barbarically assassinated by Americans.
In the U.S., Mr Trump’s action has sharply divided the American legislature, with Democrats slapping the president for his unilateral decision while Republicans hailed him for doing what was necessary to protect American lives and interests.
“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “But we cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions. Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence.”
Chris Murphy, a Democrat senator, said on Twitter that Mr Trump’s action was too grievous to be carried out without legislative approval.
Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question.
The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 3, 2020
Marco Rubio, a Republican senator, tweeted Friday morning that Mr Trump had “exercised admirable restraint while setting clear red lines & the consequences for crossing them.”
He said the Iranians “are entirely to blame for bringing about the dangerous moment now before us.”
Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator, thanked Mr Trump for his action in a chain of tweets, warning Iranians that there would be further actions, including those that might be targeted at Iran’s oil facilities, if the regime failed to cease provocative tactics.
Wow – the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically. Major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands. Soleimani was one of the most ruthless and vicious members of the Ayatollah's regime. He had American blood on his hands.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 3, 2020
As uncertainty rages over Mr Soleimani’s death, the U.S. government has ordered evacuation of all its citizens from Iraq in order to properly assess the situation.
Widespread protests are expected to break out across the region after Friday’s Jumaat prayers.