Tensions have escalated in the Gulf as a USA drone attack ordered by President Donald Trump on Friday killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq's paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.
General Soleimani, the deputy head of Iraq's Hashd al-Sha'abi, and a number of their entourage were killed in a strike by American drones near Baghdad International Airport in the early hours of Friday. Trump said 52 represents the number of Americans held hostage at the United States embassy in Tehran for more than a year starting in late 1979.
The president said the United States was targeting 52 sites in Iran and will hit them "very fast and very hard" if Tehran attacks American personnel or assets. But Iran's army chief dismissed the threats as an attempt to distract the global opinion "from the heinous and unjustifiable act they have done".
Trump called off the airstrikes shortly before they were set to take place when he learned that as many as 150 Iranian casualties were possible.
The American attack, in turn, came as retaliation for a rocket strike that killed a U.S. contractor in Kirkuk, Iraq, some days earlier.
White House and Defense Department officials say Soleimani was actively plotting more attacks that could have killed Americans. A survey previous year by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found 27 per cent of Americans believe military interventions make the United States safer, and almost half said they make the country less safe.
A military official said no American servicemen were injured in either strike.
Following the death of an American contractor in rocket attacks on a USA base in Iraq, Washington carried out a series of strikes Sunday that led to the deaths of at least 25 fighters from the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
"Khamenei is unlikely to go to war during the coming days, as he's scheduled to pray over Soleimani on Monday at Tehran University", said Sam Bazzi, Middle East expert and founder of Hezbollah Watch. Several other people were also killed in Friday's attack.
Iran has vowed to avenge his killing.
Outraged Iranian MPs took to the Parliament podium to chant "death to America".
The body was reportedly flown to the city of Ahvaz from Iraq, as IRIB posted a video of a casket wrapped in an Iranian flag being unloaded from a military plane.
"Jus cogens refers to peremptory norms of worldwide law, i.e. global red lines".
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