Iran's top general Soleimani killed in US strike

By Jessie Yeung, Fernando Alfonso III, Tara John, Julia Hollingsworth, Rob Picheta, Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 4:26 a.m. ET, January 4, 2020
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7:40 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Russia warns of "grave consequences" of US attack

From CNN’s Mary Ilyushina in Moscow

Russia is “alarmed” by the killing of Qasem Soleimani and fears the attack could disrupt the situation in the Middle East, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on its official website.

“The news of the death of the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force Qasem Soleimani in a strike launched by the US armed forces at Baghdad airport are alarming," the statement reads. "Washington’s move is fraught with grave consequences in terms regional peace and stability."
"We presume that such actions do not contribute to finding solutions to the complex problems that have accumulated in the Middle East, but rather lead to a new round of escalation of tensions in the region,” the ministry added.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova earlier wrote on her official Facebook page that such escalation will “hit millions of people.”

"To condemn attacks on their embassies, states go to the UN Security Council with a draft statement. Washington did not go to the Security Council. So, the world’s reaction did not interest them," Zakharova wrote. "They were interested in the change of the situation in the region… This will not lead to anything but the escalation of tensions, which will certainly hit millions of people."

6:59 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Oil prices surge after US airstrike

From CNN Business' Laura He and Charles Riley.

Oil prices moved higher Friday after the US airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Futures for Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped 4.3% to $69.08 per barrel on Friday. US oil futures gained 4.1%, reaching $63.69 per barrel. Both are on track for their biggest daily gains in about a month.

A picture taken on July 15, 2019 shows Iraq's Majnoon oil field, some 40 kilometers from the eastern border with Iran, north of the Iraqi city of Basra. Credit: Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images
A picture taken on July 15, 2019 shows Iraq's Majnoon oil field, some 40 kilometers from the eastern border with Iran, north of the Iraqi city of Basra. Credit: Hussein Faleh/AFP via Getty Images

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, said in a research note that Iranian threats of retaliation could mean that oil installations would be targeted.

"An indirect response is the most apparent course of action, and oil installations and tankers were my first thoughts," he said.

But Halley added that it's hard to tell whether Friday's surge will be sustained.

Read the rest of the piece here.

6:54 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

US official confirms drone use in Soleimani attack

From CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto

A US defense official tells CNN that a drone was used to conduct the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

6:25 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Thousands of people are taking to the streets in Tehran

Tens of thousands of people are rallying on the streets of Iranian capital Tehran following the US air strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.

CNN reporter Ramin Mostaghim says similar rallies are underway in hundreds of cities and towns in Iran.

6:41 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Iran's Supreme Leader appoints Soleimani replacement

From CNN's Sara Mazloumsaki.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has appointed a new leader of the country’s Quds Force military organization to replace Qasem Soleimani, according to a statement from his office published by the country's official news agency (IRNA).

Ismail Qaani has been named as the new commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force. (Handout/Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ismail Qaani has been named as the new commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force. (Handout/Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Major General Ismail Qaani served for years alongside Soleimani, he said, adding that the Quds Force's agenda would remain unchanged.

“General Ismail Qaani has been one of the most prominent commanders in the Holy Defense and has served with the Martyr Commander [Soleimani] in the Quds Force for many years”, Khamenei said.

”The agenda of that Quds Force is exactly the same as that [under] the martyr Soleimani, I would like to thank all of those colleagues for their cooperation with Commander Qaani, and I wish them success, approval, and divine guidance.”

6:09 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Israel on alert for possible Iranian retaliation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cutting short an official visit to Greece and returning home following the airstrike in Iraq, according to his office. He was originally scheduled to return Saturday night. 

There's been no statement from Netanyahu yet, but his government is preparing for a possible retaliation from Iran, reports CNN's Oren Liebermann.

"Israel knows quite well that Iran could choose to respond not towards the US, but towards Israel, and that's because of the proximity of Iran's proxies and Iran's allies," Liebermann explained.

6:11 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

John Bolton repeats call for regime change in Tehran

Former US national security adviser John Bolton has congratulated "all involved" in the killing of the influential Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, calling it "the first step to regime change in Tehran."

Bolton, a prominent proponent of the Iraq war, has publicly and repeatedly called for regime change in Tehran in the past.

In September 2019, US President Donald Trump abruptly announced that Bolton had been fired, noting that he "strongly disagreed with many" of Bolton's suggestions "as did others in the administration."

6:23 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

What could Iran hit in retaliation?

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in London.

The immediate answer is nothing too much that's new.

US military assets in the region will be on high alert and can likely defend themselves against Iran's military, which is by any judgement worse equipped. They will nonetheless remain targets in Iraq, Syria and possibly even Afghanistan.

US diplomatic facilities will also go into lockdown to avoid reprisals, with Beirut in Lebanon and Erbil in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq exercising the most likely caution.

American civilians will also be at risk: Iran's allies and proxies have kidnapped them in the past in the region. And the shipping lanes previously targeted will also risk paralysis because of any possible response. Yet these are all assets that have already been under threat over the past months.

Realistically, the longer term threat is to US allies which can't -- like Israel -- simply leave the region or go into lockdown.

Israel has Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to its north, which is under pressure domestically but still has hundreds of rockets it could fire at the behest of Iran's hardliners.

Saudi Arabia has already been attacked by drones and rockets that Iran said were fired by its Yemen Houthi rebel proxies, but the US said originated from Iran.

Saudi Arabia is at risk again, both within its own borders and on its southern frontier with Yemen, where it remains involved in an intractable conflict.

But Iran is a master of the unexpected and incremental. Expect -- along with maybe something loud and high profile soon -- something not mentioned above.

5:39 a.m. ET, January 3, 2020

New images emerge of scene of air strike

CNN has obtained the following daylight images of the scene of the air strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.