Middle East

Iran designates US military ‘terrorists’ over Soleimani killing

Iran has designated the U.S. armed forces a terrorist group over the killing of top commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Iran’s lawmakers on Tuesday, January 7 unanimously approved the bill to designate the U.S. Army and Department of Defense as terrorist organizations, Tasnim news reported. The bill designates U.S. forces, Pentagon employees, affiliated organizations, and those who ordered Soleimani’s death, AFP reported.

Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force – the IRGC’s external operations arm – was killed last week in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport. Killed with him was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of the Kataib Hezbollah group and de facto commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi militias.

In April the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, the first such designation of a state’s armed forces. The U.S. designated the Quds Force a foreign terrorist organization a decade ago.

Also on Tuesday, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said 13 “revenge” scenarios had been drafted in response to the Soleimani’s killing.

Soleimani was to be buried in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday.

The general’s killing has sparked a new crisis in the region, with Iran and its surrogate forces vowing revenge on the U.S. and pledging to expel American forces.

It’s unclear what the immediate implications of Iran’s designation have for U.S. forces, but the Coalition against Islamic State said over that weekend that it would pause the ongoing training of Iraqi forces, citing force protection concerns. NATO has also stopped its training in Iraq, and Germany said Tuesday that it would move 35 soldiers involved in the training mission into neighboring Kuwait and Jordan.

On Sunday, Iraq’s parliament approved a non-binding resolution that calls for U.S. forces to leave the country. On Monday, the Pentagon said it mistakenly sent a letter to the head of Iraq’s Joint Operations Command planning for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

There are some 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and more than 3,000 others have been deployed to Kuwait in recent days following a December 27 attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that Washington blamed on Kataib Hezbollah. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after Soleimani’s death that the commander had orchestrated the attack.

Tehran and Washington have exchanged angry condemnations of each other’s operations in the region for years, but the crisis escalated in 2018 when President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal concluded between Iran and six world powers that provided for the lifting of crippling nuclear-related sanctions in exchange for restrictions on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iran’s announcement on Sunday that it would no longer abide by limitations on uranium enrichment has left the deal’s European signatories scrambling. The European Union invited Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Brussels to discuss the crisis, but the U.S. has denied him a visa for a planned trip to the United Nations headquarters in New York. Zarif’s spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said Sunday that the foreign minister had not yet accepted the E.U. invitation.

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