Iran's top general Soleimani killed in US strike
As news broke that the US struck and killed Qasem Soleimani, President Trump was dining at his Mar-a-Lago club, surrounded by old friends and others like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
As meatloaf and ice cream were served, the Pentagon confirmed that the US was behind the strikes, the only statement from the administration throughout the night.
Putting this airstrike in perspective: The scene Friday was similar to the one after Trump gave the order for American forces to carry out the missile strike on a Syrian airfield in the spring 2017.
After that strike, Trump went into great detail about the chocolate cake he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was there for ga summit, when he informed him about the series of tomahawk missiles.
"I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you — this was during dessert,” Trump said at the time. “We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing. Brilliant. It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius.”
"He was eating his cake and he was silent," the President added.
Trump later described it as "the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen—and President Xi was enjoying it.”
Senior congressional Democrats who make up part of the Gang of Eight were not notified before the strikes that killed Iran Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. They say it's a breach of protocol over how the top leadership is typically briefed over sensitive military actions that carry great risks to the US.
The four Democrats in the Gang of Eight include Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Thursday night criticized the administration for not consulting with Congress ahead of the attack.
It’s unclear if any of the four Republican leaders were briefed ahead of time, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spent Thursday with Trump at his Florida resort. Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham — who is not a member of the Gang of Eight but is a close ally of Trump — said this morning that he was briefed about the potential operation when he was with Trump in Florida this week.
After the attack at the Baghdad airport, Pelosi spoke to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a Democratic source told CNN. The two talked for about 13 minutes around 9:40 p.m. ET Thursday, hours after the attack.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is "deeply concerned" with the escalation in the Gulf region, according to a statement today from his spokesperson.
"The Secretary-General has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf," said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general. "He is deeply concerned with the recent escalation."
"This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf."
Video from Syria's last rebel-held territory in Idlib province shows people distributing sweets celebrating the death of Qasem Soleimani.
"We congratulate the free people of Syria on the death of the criminal Qassem Soleimani, hopefully Assad will have the same fate," a sign on the sweets tray read.
The Syrian opposition has been fighting the Syria's president Bashar Al Assad and his government, which is backed heavily by Iran. Soleimani was seen as one of the chief architects of military strategy that allowed the Syrian regime to beat back Syrian rebels. In the brutal siege of Aleppo in 2016, Soleimani played a prominent role in the offensive that displaced more than 400,000 Syrians and killed thousands.
Many who have been displaced by the violence now live in Idlib, Syria.
An umbrella group for the Syrian opposition said in a statement that they hope Iran’s sectarian crimes in Syria will end with the death of Soleimani.
"The killing of the terrorist commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard militia, Qassem Soleimani, who led and participated in massacres and the displacement of millions of Syrians marks the end of one of the most prominent war criminals who is responsible for (many) crimes in Syria and the region,” the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces known as Etilaf said.
The statement went on to add: "War criminal Soleimani played a major role in the situation in Syria."
Most stocks on Wall Street slumped this morning on the news of the US drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. But investments that tend to do well during times when traders are nervous about geopolitical turmoil shot higher.
- Gold rose more than 1% to about $1,555 an ounce.
- Bitcoin surged 4% to $7,250.
- The VIX, a volatility measure often dubbed Wall Street's fear gauge, was up 7%.
- Crude oil prices rose nearly 4% to above $63 a barrel.
- Dow oil stocks Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) were each trading higher.
- Top defense stocks, including Lockheed Martin (LMT), Raytheon (RTN) and Northrop Grumman (NOC), were all up in early trading.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said there are no immediate threats to the area following the developing situation with Iran, but the Metropolitan Police Department and DC Homeland Security are monitoring evolving events.
“While there are no immediate threats to the District of Columbia, we remain vigilant and MPD & HSEMA will remain in close contact with regional and federal partners to monitor evolving events — both at home and abroad. As always, we remind members of the public if they see something, say something by contacting law enforcement of any suspicious activity," Bowser said.
Police departments in New York City and Los Angeles are also monitoring the situation in Iran following the death of Qasem Soleimani.
General Qasem Soleimani's body will arrive in Tehran on Saturday, Iran state media reports.
Iranian state-run IRNA news agency also reports that General Soleimani will have a funeral procession in the Shiite holy cities of Karabala and Najaf before his body heads back to Tehran.
The US Embassies in Bahrain, Kuwait and Pakistan issued security alerts after the strike.
The Embassy in Pakistan announced it was restricting travel by US government employees “given possible reactions to recent events in Iraq.”
“US government personnel in Pakistan are required to postpone non-essential official movements and most personal movements,” it said in an alert, which suggested US citizens “keep a low profile” and “avoid crowds.”
The Embassy in Kuwait said that “out of an abundance of caution, the embassy is increasing its security posture,” but would remain open.
“We are not aware of specific, credible threats against private US citizens in Kuwait at this time. Nonetheless, this situation serves as a reminder that US citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance, and the Embassy advises US citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times,” the alert said.
The alert also suggested that Americans “keep a low profile” and “have travel documents up to date and easily accessible.”
The embassy in Bahrain also said it was not aware of specific threats to citizens, but warned that “in light of regional events, there is potential for spontaneous demonstrations or unrest to take place in Bahrain over the coming days, and possibly beyond.”
“We remind US citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. US citizens are therefore urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities,” it said.
The issuance of these security alerts come as the US Embassy in Baghdad urges US citizens to flee Iraq immediately.
The New York Police Department has deployed additional resources to sensitive locations across the city out of caution as it continues to monitor the events in Iran and across the region.
"The NYPD continues to closely monitor the events in Iran and across the region for any further developments. While there are no specific or credible threats in New York City, the Department has deployed additional resources to sensitive locations across the city out of an abundance of caution," the NYPD said in a statement.
The Los Angeles Police Department is also monitoring the fallout following the death of Qasem Soleimani.
“While there is no credible threat to Los Angeles, the LAPD is monitoring the events developing in Iran. We will continue to communicate with state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners regarding any significant intel that may develop," the Los Angeles Police Department tweeted.