Iraq parliament calls for US troops to be expelled

05 January 2020
Iran holds mass funeral for slain general as US President Trump says 52 Iranian targets could be hit in event of retaliation from Tehran

The Iraq parliament passed a resolution on 5 January calling for the Iraqi government to expel foreign troops from the country following the US airstrike in Baghdad on 3 January that killed senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

The resolution asks Iraq’s government to cancel the request for assistance from the US-led coalition operating in the country against the Islamic State.

“The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.

“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.”

The Iraqi parliamentary resolution is non-binding on the government, but Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi urged the government to take urgent measures and end the foreign troop presence as soon as possible.

Soleimani returns to Iran

Hundreds of thousands of mourners took to the streets in Iran on 5 January to receive home the remains of Soleimani.

Soleimani’s assassination has significantly escalated already high tensions between Iran and the US, which have been ratcheted up further by US President Donald Trump’s threat to Tehran.

Trump, who authorised the attack on Soleimani, on Sunday tweeted that the US was ready to strike 52 sites "important to Iran & the Iranian culture".

In a series of tweets likely to raise concerns about a path to war between the two countries, Trump said the US would strike Iran "VERY FAST AND VERY HARD" if Iran targeted American bases or troops.

The president said the 52 targets identified by the US represented the 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for more than a year from late 1979 after they were taken from the US embassy in Tehran.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1213593975732527112

Analysts say Tehran will want to avoid being sucked into a full-scale conventional war with the US, and is most likely to employ 'asymetric warfare' tactics against US assets and interests, hit US allies through its proxies, or even resort to cyberattacks against the US.

Iran vows revenge

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who had a close personal relationship with Soleimani, warned of "severe revenge" for the attack.

Already, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad late on 4 January have fallen inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the US Embassy.

Soleimani, as head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was the architect of Iran's sphere of influence across the Middle East and he was considered to be the country's second-most powerful man.

Soleimani masterminded the mobilisation of militias across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, including in the war against Isis. He has also been blamed for attacks on US troops and American allies going back decades.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the US message delivered by the Swiss ambassador on 3 January was unacceptable, but maintained they did not want war.

Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, allowing the two countries to maintain a diplomatic channel of communication.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Ruler of Oman, a country that maintains a neutral stance between the two nations, has called on both to resolve their issues diplomatically and asked the international community to intensify efforts for peace in the region.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on 5 January said Tehran would announce its fifth step back from the nuclear deal in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing.

“Regarding the fifth step, decisions had already been made ... but considering the current situation, some changes will be made in an important meeting tonight,” Mousavi said in televised remarks.

The European Union has said it has invited Iran’s foreign minister to Brussels, urging a “de-escalation of tensions” in the Gulf. The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made the offer to Mohammad Javad Zarif during a telephone conversation, a press release said.

The invite followed comments from the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in which he called for a de-escalation in hostilities and said the US had a right to self-defence in killing Iranian commander Soleimani.

Regional markets take hit

Most regional equity markets fell sharply on 5 January, aligned with the global slump on 3 January, as tensions between the US and Iran escalated.

In Kuwait, the main index declined 4.1 per cent, paring a rally which made it the best-performing Gulf bourse last year.

Dubai's DFM General Index, the main benchmark for the emirate's equities, plunged 3.1 per cent, Abu Dhabi's general index slipped 1.4 per cent, Bahrain's index slumped 2.26 per cent and Muscat Securities Market slipped 0.3 per cent at the end of trade on 5 January.

Saudi Arabia's and Egypt's main market indices dropped 2.4 per cent and 4.4 per cent, respectively.

Oil prices, which experienced a sharp spike in the aftermath of the US assault on Soleimani, with global benchmark Brent crude rising to a high of $69.21 a barrel at one point on 3 January, pared gains to settle at $68.60 a barrel as of 17:45 UAE time on 5 January.

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