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Iran Leader's Lies

Bad Reporter by Don Asmussen

Iran Crash

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Iran crash: Canadians feel like collateral damage of Trump's scattershot foreign policy

The Guardian: When a Canadian business magnate sent off a flurry of tweets blaming Donald Trump for provoking the crisis which eventually led to the accidental shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, the posts quickly went viral.

Michael McCain, the billionaire CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, used the company’s branded Twitter account to describe the US president as a “narcissist” and described the 176 passengers and crew as “collateral damage” from Trump’s “irresponsible, dangerous, ill-conceived behaviour”.

It was a potentially risky move for a company employing 24,000 people and with operations in the United States, but the thread was liked more than 70,000 times on Twitter – suggesting that his comments had struck a nerve in Canada.

Iran has admitted accidentally shooting down the plane, which was carrying 57 Canadian citizens.

However, McCain’s tweets highlight one strand of Canada’s response to the disaster – the latest in a string of events in which the country has found itself caught up in feuds between the Trump administration and other countries.

Justin Trudeau seemed to acknowledge such frustrations on Monday, when he said that the victims of the disaster would still be alive were it not for a recent crisis partly triggered by Trump’s decision to kill Iran’s top general, Qassem Suleimani.

“I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” he said.

As a close ally of the US – and its largest trading partner – Canada has always been especially vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of policy decisions made in Washington DC.

Such sensitivity has only heightened under the current administration.

“Canadians might not be holding Donald Trump directly responsible for this attack, but I believe there is increasing concern among Canadians that we are the collateral damage in erratic decisions made by the Trump administration,” said Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international relations at Carleton University. “There’s no real forethought from this administration in how policy might affect allies. And really there’s no afterthought to how they might ameliorate the damage that comes from these situations.”

Canada was one of the first victims of Trump’s aggressive trade policy, when the US slapped tariffs on aluminum and steel imports on the grounds of national security.

In August 2018, Canada prompted a furious response from Saudi Arabia after it criticized the kingdom’s stance on human rights. Saudi Arabia expelled Canadian diplomats, recalled medical students and cut off trade – but the US refrained from comment.

“The fact that the Trump administration didn’t defend us, was probably the first indication that this might be a serious challenge for Canada,” said Carvin.

In December 2018, Canada responded to a US arrest warrant and detained Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on suspicion of fraud. Bound by an extradition treaty between the two nations, Canada had no choice, but the consequences have been disastrous for the country.

A protester holds photos of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who are being detained by China, in Vancouver. Photograph: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

Shortly afterwards, two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – were arrested in China, a move widely viewed as retaliation for Meng’s arrest. Both men remain in custody.

Relations between China and Canada remain in the deep freeze, and a free trade deal – worth billions of dollars – was shelved.

While Trudeau has spoken with Trump about the pain Canada has suffered – especially around the two detained citizens – little progress has been made in freeing Spavor and Kovrig.

“It’s not helpful if the president of the United States says he’ll say something to China and then doesn’t follow through because he’s more interested in getting a trade deal than he is in freeing the two Canadians,” said Carvin. “China knows this and can use this as leverage against us.”

With his seemingly freewheel approach to policy, Trump has often left Canada officials scrambling to assess the impacts of his decisions.

“We can predict the coming consequences of many of his actions, massive and momentous and obvious,” wrote former diplomat Scott Gilmore in a Maclean’s magazine article linking the crash to US policy in the Middle East.

“But, in our inherently chaotic and unstable world, the impact of others, like withdrawing from the Paris agreement, are less immediate and recognizable and it may take us decades to fully appreciate the tornadoes to come.”

With much of the focus within Canada dedicated to navigating US foreign policy and not on its own, Canada has sidelined its own priorities, including pursuing a security council seat at the UN.

“We have benefited so much from the protection of the United States,” said Carvin. “But we’re starting to see what the world looks like when that protection isn’t there.”

Iran's 'Chernobyl' moment?

Cartoon by Ben Garrison

Is this Iran's 'Chernobyl' moment?

Analysis by Eliza Mackintosh

CNN: Iran's admission that it mistakenly shot down a passenger plane sent protesters pouring into the streets over the weekend. Though demonstrations were smaller on Monday and nearly outnumbered by riot police, some observers have already begun to wonder if this could be the beginning of the end for the current regime.
After days of denial and obfuscation, Iranian officials finally acknowledged early Saturday that its military had shot down a Ukraine International Airlines jet, killing all 176 people on board, many of whom were Iranian citizens.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed "human error" prompted by "US adventurism," alluding to the escalating brinkmanship between Iran and the United States over the US killing of a revered Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani.

But the Iranian government's tendency to point the finger at Washington, or other malicious foreign actors, for unrest at home is ringing hollow now. While the Trump administration has fomented a fractious atmosphere, it was not responsible for this accident.
Tehran's admission appears to have re-ignited the anti-government sentiment that raged last year, despite the wave of nationalism followed Soleimani's death earlier this month.

As crowds gathered in the capital Tehran for a candlelight vigil on Saturday to commemorate victims, protesters called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted. Familiar chants of "Death to America," were traded for "Death to the dictator" and "Death to the liar." In one video, demonstrators chanted, "Khamenei have shame. Leave the country."

This reckoning is already being billed as Iran's "Chernobyl" moment, an analogy to the way the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Soviet Ukraine "exposed all the incompetence, state deception and rot in that regime," according to IranWire, a site for Iranian citizen journalists in the diaspora."

But whether Iran's grief and fury could lead to revolution is hard to tell.

"Through a western lens, we're always looking for a revolutionary moment [in Iran]," said Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow and leader of the Iran Forum at London-based think tank Chatham House.
While there are certainly similarities between how authorities handled the Chernobyl accident and the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 -- repeated denials, attempted cover-ups, inescapable evidence from foreign governments, and a reluctant admission -- the parallels may end there, she said.

"This could be 'Iran's Chernobyl moment,'" said Vakil. "But the question is how is Iranian leadership going to handle it. [After Chernobyl] everything was very much incumbent on one political leader making a decision to accept responsibility and alter political dynamics."

"The only person who can really make meaningful changes in the Iranian political system is the Supreme Leader," she points out.
And if history is any judge, Khamenei could move to violently quash protests, as he did during anti-government protests that gripped Iran late last year. How Tehran reacts now to the protests has drawn both international and domestic scrutiny, with warnings from US President Donald Trump that the "world is watching" and "do not kill your protesters."

For an uprising to become a revolution, the opposition needs its own leadership and a shared ideology, according to Emmanuel Karagiannis, a senior lecturer at the Department of Defense Studies at King's College London.

But Iranian protesters have neither, he said, dismissing recent demonstrations as a "spontaneous and grassroots" movement that draws across a broad mix of interests and loyalties, including students, professionals, trade unionists, and ethnic minorities.

"The Iranian regime has been in power for over 40 years. Of course, it could collapse but it's hard to see that happening without the elements that would need to be in place ... an organized and united opposition," said Vakil.

Nevertheless, this moment seems different.

Unlike the previous groundswell of opposition, response to the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane has triggered condemnation from conservatives too, who typically support the government. The editor in chief of right-wing Tasnim news agency -- which is tied to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps -- criticized Iran's leaders for attempting to lie to the public. "Officials who misled the media are guilty too," Kian Abdollahi said on Twitter. "We are all ashamed before the people."

That shame has grown under the harsh spotlight of a relentless news cycle and the outcry from Iranians on social media.

Though Iran's state media did not cover this weekend's protests, images and cellphone videos shared on social media has amplified the message of civilian anger. So too have public figures, who have spoken out online at great personal risk.

Oscar-nominated Taraneh Alidoosti, Iran's most popular female actor, took to Instagram on Sunday to bluntly criticize the government, telling millions of followers that Iranians were "not citizens," but "captives." "I fought this dream for a long time and didn't want to accept it. We are not citizens. We never were. We are captives," she wrote.

"Ultimately the Islamic Republic is under pressure, because people really do want accountability and transparency," Vakil said.

Perhaps Iran's government spokesman described the situation best. In commentary published in the semiofficial Fars News Agency, Ali Rabiee said that the regime's delayed admission to downing the plane had "irreparably damaged the relationship between us and our nation."

The question now is what Tehran will do about it.

Fallout

Cartoon by Paolo Lombardi

Iranians protest for third day over downed airliner amid reports of gunfire by security forces

The Washington Post: Iranians staged protests Monday for the third straight day after Iran's military admitted it shot down a Ukrainian airliner it mistook for a hostile aircraft amid heightened tensions with the United States last week, killing all 176 people onboard.

Videos from Sunday night showed demonstrators fleeing from tear gas and in one case a woman bleeding from the leg — a wound that protesters said was caused by live ammunition.

"Is this the blood of our people?" one demonstrator said as he filmed a pool of blood on the street in Tehran.

In other videos posted on social media, which could not immediately be verified, sounds of gunfire could be heard at protests in Azadi Square in the capital, as well as in the city of Shiraz.

Iranians protest as government admits shooting down airline

The fury at Iran's government marked a stunning turnaround for leaders in Tehran, after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran's Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, earlier this month, prompting hundreds of thousands of Iranians to rally in a display of public mourning.

Demonstrators late Sunday were filmed in at least two locations tearing down posters of Soleimani. His death early Jan. 3 prompted Tehran to retaliate against the United States, firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. troops.

In the hours after the attacks early Wednesday, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 with a surface-to-air missile, a move it blamed on "human error." Listed among the dead were 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, including the crew. Most, if not all, of the Canadians were reported to be of Iranian origin or dual nationals.

In Vali-e Asr Square in Tehran, a large poster depicting Soleimani was replaced with a billboard mourning the victims of the crash.

In a televised statement, Tehran's police chief denied that police shot at protesters and said they are under orders to show restraint.

"Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance," Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying, the Associated Press reported. "Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been agenda of the police forces of the capital."

Residents reported a heavy security presence in central Tehran Monday, including riot police and uniformed officers. One video showed riot police gathered near Vali-e Asr Square.

“All of Enghelab Street until Azadi Square is full of security forces,” said Sahar, 32, a resident of Tehran. Like other Iranians interviewed for this article, she declined to give her full name for fear of government reprisal.

Iranian security forces have cracked down hard on demonstrations and killed at least 200 protesters during unrest over cuts to fuel subsidies across Iran in November, according to rights groups. The Trump administration has put the death toll from those demonstrations much higher — it says some 1,500 people were killed by security forces.

One of the scenes of a demonstration Saturday night was Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, where people gathered at a vigil for the victims of the plane crash. The university said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed when the plane was shot down.

Security forces “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh, an architect.

“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she said.

Another video from the same university Monday showed students once again chanting against the cleric-led government.

“They killed our elites and replaced them with clerics!” they shouted.

The civil society group site NetBlocks, which monitors Internet access worldwide, said Monday that it identified a drop in Internet connectivity registered at Sharif University.

“National connectivity remains stable despite sporadic disruptions,” the group said on Twitter.

On Sunday evening, riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators gathered near the Shademaan metro station in Tehran, according to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Protesters are calling for accountability in the accidental downing of the flight. Iranian officials initially denied reports that the plane was brought down but later admitted that the Revolutionary Guard, which maintains military bases in the area of the crash, shot it down by mistake.

Officials and state media issued apologies for failing to report accurately on the crash.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency published a searing statement from the Tehran Association of Journalists on Monday decrying the state of media in Iran.

"What endangers this society right now is not only missiles or military attacks but a lack of free media," the association said.

"Hiding the truth and spreading lies traumatized the public," the statement continued. "What happened was a catastrophe for media in Iran."

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Monday that Iran's military should be commended for accepting responsibility for downing the airliner and that the government would emphasize transparency in the investigation going forward.

"What is missing is the voice of the people," students at the Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran, another site of recent protests, said in a statement.

"In the past two months, the regime's dysfunction has been proven — it's a regime that has only one answer to any problem: oppression," the statement said.

“We know that America’s presence in the Middle East has caused chaos and turmoil, and we object to the presence of any invading power,” the statement continued. It added that the U.S. presence in the region “must not turn into an excuse for internal repression.” 

Iranian coverup

Cartoon by Lisa Benson

Iranians now furious with Iran’s government

Toronto Sun: It isn’t only Canadians, and Canadians of Iranian origin, who are grief-stricken and angry now that Iran has admitted it blew Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 out of the sky with a surface-to-air missile.

Iranians — in Iran — are heartbroken, given that most of the passengers were Iranians, or dual citizens of Iran.

And many are furious with their government now that it has acknowledged it was responsible for what it claims was an accidental missile launch.

This after lying for three days, calling it a “technical failure” of the aircraft and accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other western leaders and intelligence agencies of using “psychological warfare” against Iran, when they were telling the truth.

Within hours of Iran’s admission, it wasn’t only Trudeau, speaking on behalf of Canadians Saturday, saying he was “outraged and furious” following the admission.

Hundreds of angry students gathered outside Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, denouncing Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and condemning Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — in which assassinated Gen. Qassem Soleimani was a leading figure — which fired the missile.

As is the standard operating procedure with anti-government demonstrations in Iran, the protesters were quickly confronted by riot police armed with shields and batons, firing water canons into the crowd to disperse them.

This was the latest in a wave of anti-government demonstrations going back to November, in the largest popular revolt against the country’s theocratic rulers since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Set off by a surprise 50% hike in gas prices, Iranians accused Iran’s leaders of responsibility for the economic sanctions imposed on Iran because of their military intervention in foreign wars and sponsorship of terrorism.

According to Reuters, 1,500 demonstrators were killed by Iran’s security forces during these protests — including units of Soleimani’s Revolutionary Guard — with at least 7,000 more arrested.

As Iranian journalist and human rights campaigner Masih Alinejad described these protests in the Washington Post, which occurred weeks before Soleimani’s assassination:

“The protesters had harsh words for Soleimani and his foreign adventures, chanting against Iran’s involvement in Syria and its support of Hezbollah. That came as a shock to the regime, which portrays Soleimani as … Khamenei’s adopted son.”

To be sure, opposition to Soleimani does not translate into support for U.S. President Donald Trump’s targeted assassination of the Iranian general, as evidenced by the huge demonstrations at Soleimani’s funeral, and the fury they aimed at the U.S. over his death.

Soleimani was celebrated by Iran’s Shiite leaders and many Iranians as a hero for defeating Sunni-led ISIS and al-Qaida jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

But, as Alinejad also noted, Iran’s dictators orchestrated Soleimani’s funeral to project a false international image of Iranians united under their rule.

For example, the Iranian media is heavily controlled by the government, which shut down the Internet for five days during the anti-government demonstrations.

“The government … forced students and officials to attend (Soleimani’s funeral). It provided free transport and ordered shops to shut down … First-graders … were encouraged to cry for Soleimani.”

Many Iranians consider Soleimani a war criminal, Alinejad concluded, but western journalists tend to ignore them, thus re-enforcing the myth perpetrated by Iran’s leaders that Iranians are united behind them.

Virtual Space Wars

By Mana Neyestani

The Real Prisoner

Mana Neyestani for IranWire

The Observer

Cartoon by Bart van Leeuwen

The Observer view on the assassination of Qassem Suleimani 

Editorial

It used to be the case that US assassination plots targeting foreign leaders were closely guarded secrets. That may be because such acts are widely regarded as illegal, both in international and domestic law. Alternatively, American reticence may have stemmed from a sense of shame. After all, the resort to extra-judicial killing – put plainly, state-sanctioned murder – does not reflect well on a country that claims to be a beacon of human liberty and democracy.

Donald Trump, different in this respect as in so many others, is evidently untroubled by such considerations. He brazenly sought credit for Friday’s assassination in Baghdad of the senior Iranian commander, Qassem Suleimani, boasting he had done the world a service. Trump claimed that an imminent attack had been foiled and that, in any case, Suleimani was responsible for the deaths of many US and allied soldiers. He said he acted to stop a war, not start one.

Trump is wrong – and dangerously so. His was undoubtedly an act of war. Iran’s response may not come immediately, but come it will and the consequences are unknowable.

Far from saving lives, Trump has recklessly imperilled them. He has increased the risk of a region-wide conflagration sucking in Iraq, Syria and Israel. And he has normalised murder of high officials as a tool of state policy, a precedent whose implications he himself might do well to ponder.

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, rightly warns the world is now a more dangerous place. But European calls for restraint and de-escalation have gone down badly in Washington. It seems Mike Pompeo, Trump’s bully-boy secretary of state, expected the White House warrior to be showered with congratulations. That speaks volumes about Pompeo’s limited understanding of what he and his boss have just done.

The crisis now threatens to spin out of control. Casualties, human and political, could include the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. An enraged Tehran may go all out for nuclear weapons capability. Iraq has been further destabilised. The country’s humiliated government may back demands that the US withdraw its remaining troops.

That in turn could fatally compromise efforts to prevent a resurgence in Iraq and Syria of Islamic State (Isis), a joint project already undermined by Trump’s decision last year to allow Turkey to target Syrian Kurds at the forefront of the anti-Isis fighting. Attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia by Iran’s allies and proxies appear more likely. Meanwhile, the oil price is surging, with all the global economic harm that entails.

What, at the critical juncture, is Britain’s role and interest? There can be no doubt British forces in the region have been placed at increased risk. Britain was not consulted, nor even warned, in advance of the Suleimani operation. It is obvious that Britain, closely associated in official Iranian minds with US policy, could be targeted in future revenge attacks.

So where, at this perilous moment, is Boris Johnson? Not a word has been heard from the prime minister. Apparently, he is still sunning himself in the Caribbean. Instead, the inexperienced foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, was left holding the fort – and Britain was left looking weak and irrelevant, a victim of events over which it lacks foreknowledge or influence. Is this the bold new future Johnson promised? He should remember that political honeymoons are short.

At fraught times like these, it is as well to try to keep matters in perspective. Suleimani was a fearsome, fanatical figure with much blood on his hands, a fierce opponent of the US and the west and a man who lived by violence. Unsurprisingly, he died by violence, too. It’s also a fact that the embattled Iranian regime, increasingly repressive at home, has overreached abroad, especially in Syria. Iranians are a proud and talented people, grossly misgoverned.

Yet none of this justifies Trump’s rash and cowardly act. It is wrong to murder a man, however heinous his crimes, simply because you can, in flagrant defiance of established law and the demands of justice and human decency. It is wrong to wage all-out economic warfare on any nation, inflicting needless suffering, and expect its rulers to meekly bend the knee. It would be very, very wrong of Trump to cynically use this crisis to deflect attention from his imminent impeachment trial.

Most of all, it is both wrong and stupid to pursue so aggressive and attritional a policy without the full support of key allies, without popular domestic backing or congressional approval, without due consideration for the wider international impact and, crucially, without a clear, coherent, workable long-term strategy or the will to see it through.

This, perhaps, is what is most alarming about the present situation: Trump’s lack of a plan. There was a plan, backed by Barack Obama, Europe, Russia and China, to bring Tehran in from the cold. It was working, too. It had broad international support and UN backing. It produced an unprecedented agreement five years ago. Then, in 2018, Trump casually wrecked it. This irresponsible man has not the first idea what he is doing. All that may now ensue is on him.

Impeachment >>> Kill Soleimani

Cartoon by Carlos Latuff

Readers see impeachment as motivating Trump’s airstrike in Iraq 

The Los Angeles Times: There is not evidence that President Trump ordered the airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani for any personal political purpose. Still, the initial reaction by many of our letter writers to potentially the most consequential military action undertaken by this administration imputes a sinister motive to Trump’s action: to distract from his impeachment.

I’ve written before that Trump is the most frequent target for criticism by our letter writers, many of whom note the president’s thousands of documented prevarications and the dissembling explanations given for his obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that they do not take the administration at its word now.

Andrew Liberman of Santa Monica compares Trump to one of his predecessors:

Is Trump initiating a war to distract from impeachment, similar to President Bill Clinton when he ordered an attack on Baghdad in 1998?

If the U.S. goes to war with Iran, this fight will be much different than past American ventures. Iran has a powerful military, and Trump is lighting matches to ignite a big war in the Middle East.

Will the corporate media cheer lead again, like they did for past wars in the Middle East? Speak up while you can and there is time to stop it.

Hermosa Beach resident Cynthia Lum worries about a war with Iran:

If you wondered what Trump was going to do to distract us from impeachment, you have your answer: assassinate Iran’s most important general.

Never mind the consequences; all that matters is that Trump gets the news cycle moving in a new direction.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered three days of mourning and vowed that the U.S. would face “severe revenge” for the killing. This is an unbelievably ignorant act of war that places all Americans at risk.

Trump has to go before we face a full-fledged war with Iran. If the Republicans close ranks around him, they too have to go.

Richard Cherwitz, a professor of rhetoric at the University of Texas, notes Trump’s past behavior:

Are we witnessing the paradigm case of rhetorical projection and deflection?

It is hardly a surprise that when we awoke Friday morning, the media were not talking about impeachment and Ukraine, the major headline of prior weeks. The story now has changed suddenly and dramatically.

I don’t think I am being a cynic to suggest that the timing of Trump’s order to kill Suleimani is far from a coincidence. Wouldn’t we be naive to assume that this president is reticent to use war as a political strategy -- to change the narrative and rhetorically extricate himself from the new and mounting evidence about his inappropriate actions in Ukraine?

After all, Trump is the master of deflection and projection, of shifting the topic and doing precisely what he has accused others of doing. In the past he wrongly predicted that President Obama would attack Iran in order to get reelected.

Paul Thornton is the Los Angeles Times’ letters editor.

A more dangerous world

Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj

‘A more dangerous world’: Iran killing triggers global alarm

By Gregory Katz

AP: Global powers warned Friday that the world became a more dangerous place after the U.S. assassinated Iran’s top general, urging restraint on all sides. Britain and Germany also suggested that Iran shared some blame for provoking the targeted killing that dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the Mideast.

China, Russia and France, all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, took a dim view of the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad’s airport early Friday that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani and several of his associates. The 62-year-old ledIran’s elite Quds Force, responsible for the country’s foreign campaigns.

The White House justified the strike with a tweet alleging that Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

Oil prices surged on news of the killing, reflecting investor jitters about Mideast stability, and there were immediate threats of vengeance from Iran. Social media flooded with alarm, with Twitter users morbidly turning “WWIII” into the top trending term worldwide.

“We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio. “When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is underway.”

Russia likewise characterized the deadly U.S. strike as “fraught with serious consequences.” A Foreign Ministry statement warned that “such actions don’t help resolve complicated problems in the Middle East, but instead lead to a new round of escalating tensions.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested that in ordering the killing, U.S. President Donald Trump had one eye on his re-election campaign.

“The U.S. military were acting on orders of U.S. politicians. Everyone should remember and understand that U.S. politicians have their interests, considering that this year is an election year,” Zakharova said in a TV interview.

Trump’s election opponents characterized the killing as reckless, with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden saying the U.S. president “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.”

China described itself as “highly concerned.”

“Peace in the Middle East and the Gulf region should be preserved,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “We urge all parties concerned, especially the United States, to maintain calm and restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions.”

But while echoing the concerns of other Security Council members about spiraling tensions, Britain and Germany broke ranks, voicing qualified understanding for the U.S. position.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer described the U.S. strike as “a reaction to a whole series of military provocations for which Iran bears responsibility,” pointing to attacks on tankers and a Saudi oil facility, among other events.

“We are at a dangerous escalation point and what matters now is contributing with prudence and restraint to de-escalation,” she said. Germany currently sits on the U.N. Security Council but is not a permanent member.

The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said “we have always recognized the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani.”

“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate,” he said. “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

There were also warnings that the killing could set back efforts to stamp out remnants of the Islamic State group. A top European Union official, Charles Michel, said “the risk is a generalized flare up of violence in the whole region and the rise of obscure forces of terrorism that thrive at times of religious and nationalist tensions.”

Italy also warned that increased tensions “risk being fertile terrain for terrorism and violent extremism.” But right-wing Italian opposition leader Matteo Salvini praised Trump for eliminating “one of the most dangerous and pitiless men in the world, an Islamic terrorist, an enemy of the West, of Israel, of rights and of freedoms.”

Trump also won the support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively.”

Behind the scenes, the strike triggered urgent flurries of diplomatic activity. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo worked phones, calling world capitals to defend Trump’s decision. He said the U.S. is committed to de-escalating tensions that have soared since Iranian-backed militia killed an American contractor and the U.S. responded with strikes on the militia. That set off violent pro-Iran protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which in turn set the stage for the killing of Soleimani.

In the Mideast, the strike provoked waves of shock, fury and fears of worse to come.

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in a speech during Friday prayers that the country must brace for “very difficult times.”

In Iran, a hard-line adviser to the country’s supreme leader who led Friday prayers in Tehran likened U.S. troops in Iraq to “insidious beasts” and said they should be swept from the region.

“I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take a revenge that will change their daylight into to a nighttime darkness,” said the cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.

Gregory Katz in London, Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Daria Litvinova in Moscow, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Matthew Lee in Washington and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed.

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