NEWS
07/01/2020 16:59 GMT | Updated 07/01/2020 16:59 GMT

The Latest On Iran Explained: US Braced For ‘Severe Revenge’ As Crisis Escalates

Here are the key updates on tensions brewing after Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed commander Qasem Soleimani.

The unfolding crisis in the Middle East has continued to escalate as the world waits to see how Iran will respond to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike last week. 

UK and European allies have called for calm as Iranian officials threaten to “set ablaze” American interests in the region.

Here’s everything you need to know about the developments of the last 24 hours. 

Iranian officials promise retaliation 

The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States but gave no hint of where this might be.

Speaking on Tuesday at the funeral of Soleimani in the town of Kerman, Hossein Salami’s vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials – from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to others – for “severe revenge” against America. 

Salami praised Soleimani’s exploits and said as a martyr, he represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies.

“We will take revenge. We will set ablaze where they like,” he said, drawing cries of “Death to Israel!” from the crowd.

In a further development, Iran’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill that designates all US forces as terrorists.

The bill states: “Any aid to these forces, including military, intelligence, financial, technical, service or logistical, will be considered as cooperation in a terrorist act.”

US on high alert but unsure what to expect

The next chapter of the crisis is largely in the hands of Iran as the US awaits its response to the killing of Soleimani. 

While officials say American intelligence isn’t clear on whether Iran’s latest military moves are designed to bolster Tehran’s defences or prepare for an offensive strike, the US is continuing to reinforce its own positions in the region, including repositioning some forces.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A police officer and K-9 do a security sweep early on Monday as Congress returns to to Washington to face the challenge of fallout from President Donald Trump's military strike in Iraq.

US officials have initiated a heightened state of military readiness as they prepare for a possible “tit-for-tat” attempt on the life of an American military commander.

One official said the US anticipated a “major” attack of some type within the next day or two, PA Media reported.

Statista

According to a report on Tuesday by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Iran has worked up 13 sets of plans for revenge for Soleimani’s killing.

The report quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that even the weakest among them would be a “historic nightmare” for the US.

Wana News Agency / Reuters
An Iranian guard holds a Hezbollah flag during a funeral procession and burial for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani/

Britain treads a careful diplomatic path

Boris Johnson finds himself joining with French and German allies in calling for calm in the region, whilst attempting to maintain good relations with the Trump administration ahead of talks with the US on a post-Brexit trade deal.

The PM and foreign secretary Dominic Raab have said the UK would not “lament” the passing of Soleimani but have made it clear that Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites would be a breach of international law.

The PM has briefed senior ministers on the situation in Iraq at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet, Downing Street said on Tuesday.

The spokesman said they agreed Soleimani had been responsible for “disruptive, destabilising behaviour in the region and posed a threat to all our interests”.

The spokesman said a more “substantial“ discussion would take place at the National Security Council later on Tuesday.

Raab is travelling to Brussels for talks with his European counterparts on the situation.

The United Nations 

The US has denied a visa to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that would have allowed him to attend a long-planned United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Qassem Soleimani pictured in 2016.

Under the 1947 UN “headquarters agreement”, the US is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats but Washington says it can deny visas for “security, terrorism and foreign policy” reasons.

The Security Council meeting would have given Zarif a global spotlight to publicly criticise the United States for killing Soleimani.

The situation in Iraq

The strike that killed Soleimani was conducted in Iraq where the US continues to have a large military presence.

Iraq has urged the UN Security Council to condemn the air strike as a “flagrant violation” of the terms of the American forces’ presence in the country and the Iraqi parliament voted over the weekend to force them to leave.

Senior Pentagon leaders were forced to reaffirm the US has no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, when a draft letter from a senior military officer surfaced that appeared to suggest plans for withdrawal were under way.

Deadly stampede

At least fifty people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede that erupted at a funeral procession for Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a US drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession, in the city of Kerman, Iran, Tuesday.

The big winners

The threats of retaliation coming out of the US and Iran over the last 24 hours were enough to spook markets into taking a knock by closing time on Monday, but there were some beneficiaries of the chaos.

Shares in oil and defence companies enjoyed a healthy boost on the uncertainty with oil firm BP up 10.05p at 504.1p, BAE Systems up 7.8p at 588.6p, and energy services company John Wood Group up 14.8p at 407.9p.

(Infographic supplied by Statista)