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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8:57 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Iranian ambassador to UN: Soleimani killing is an "act of war"

From CNN's Matthew Hoye 

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations said the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani is an "act of war." 

Appearing on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said, “We can’t just close our eyes to what happened last night. Definitely there will be revenge, a harsh revenge.”

"Last night they (the US) started a military war by assassinating by an act of terror against one of our top generals. So what else can be expected of Iran to do? We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act," he said.

Ravanchi made the comments as President Trump wrapped up remarks at an evangelical event in Miami, where he said he ordered the killing of Soleimani because he was planning a "very major attack." 

Asked if Iran will have to act militarily, he said, "The response for a military action is a military action. By whom? When? Where? That’s for the future to witness.”

Watch:

7:02 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Defense secretary Mark Esper expected to brief all members of Congress next week

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has “committed to providing Congress a detailed all Member briefing next week,” Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah tweeted Friday.

Farah also tweeted that Esper spoke today with US counterparts around the world about the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani. She added that he also called members of Congress and provided an update.

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

Selective Service System website crashes amid questions and fears of another US military draft

From CNN's Amir Vera

The Selective Service website crashed Friday because of "the spread of misinformation," the agency tweeted.

The website's crash came hours after the announcement that the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a US airstrike ordered by President Trump. The hashtag #WorldWarIII was one of the top trends on Twitter Friday.

The incident led to threats of retaliation from Iran's government and the escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. It sparked fears on social media of a war between the two countries and the possibility of another military draft in the US.

"Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time," the Selective Service tweeted. "If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue. We appreciate your patience."

Who is eligible for the draft? The draft ended in 1973 and the military changed to an all-volunteer force. Currently, all men ages 18 to 25 are required by law to provide basic personal information to the Selective Service System. Not doing so is illegal.

"The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual. In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft," the agency tweeted.

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

Trump open to diplomacy with Iran, official says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump remains open to talks without preconditions with Iran, national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on Friday.

Trump has offered to talk "at any time" with Iran, but "those efforts have been rebuffed," O'Brien told reporters on a briefing call.

Later, O'Brien said Iran had an alternate path than its current course of destabilizing behavior, saying it could still "sit down with the United States" to negotiate and "behave like a normal nation that’s part of the community of nations."

5:43 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

US says Soleimani was planning attacks on US troops and diplomats 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak 

National security adviser Robert O'Brien says Qasem Soleimani traveled to Baghdad from Damascus on Thursday ahead of the US strike that killed him.

O'Brien told reporters on a briefing call Friday that Soleimani was planning attacks on diplomats and American troops in the region.

5:57 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Trump claims Soleimani was planning "a very major attack"

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond 

President Donald Trump speaks during an "Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch" at King Jesus International Ministry, in Miami.
President Donald Trump speaks during an "Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch" at King Jesus International Ministry, in Miami. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Trump on Friday amplified his rationale for ordering the strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, claiming in remarks to supporters that Soleimani was planning "a very major attack."

"He was planning a very major attack and we got him," Trump told supporters at a church in Miami, where he is launching his "Evangelicals for Trump" coalition.

Moments earlier, Trump said Soleimani had been plotting multiple "attacks against Americans."

"Qasem Soleimani has been killed and his bloody rampage is now forever gone," Trump said. "He was plotting attacks against Americans, but now we’ve ensured that his atrocities have been stopped for good. They are stopped for good."

Trump praised the US military at the top of his remarks at the King Jesus Ministry in Miami, saying they "executed a flawless strike that terminated the terrorist ringleader responsible for gravely wounding and murdering thousands and thousands of people and hundreds and hundreds — at least — of Americans."

Trump once again insisted that his administration is a "peaceloving" one.

"We do not seek war, we do not seek nation-building and we do not seek regime change, but as President I will never hesitate to defend the safety of the American people," Trump said.

Watch:

4:59 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Saudi Arabia calls for restraint following attack

From CNN’s Nic Robertson

The Saudi Arabian flag flies above the Saudi consulate headquarters in Baghdad on April 4, 2019.
The Saudi Arabian flag flies above the Saudi consulate headquarters in Baghdad on April 4, 2019. Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia says it is closely following the events in Iraq and emphasizes the importance of self-restraint, an official source has said.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is following the events in Iraq, which came as a result of the escalation of tensions and terrorist acts that it denounces and which the Kingdom warned in the past of its repercussions,” the official source was quoted as saying.

“With knowledge of the operations and threats to the security of the region and the threats posed by terrorist militias that require their cessation, the Kingdom, in light of the rapid developments, calls for the importance of self-restraint to ward off all that may lead to aggravating the situation with its unbearable consequences,” the source added.

The source also said that Saudi Arabia is calling on the international community to fulfill its responsibilities to take the necessary measures to ensure regional security and stability.

 

4:29 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

The US is "ready to talk with the Iranians," State Department official says

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

A senior State Department official claimed Friday that the US is “ready to talk with the Iranians.”

“We tried to do this in the past. That’s on the table,” the official told reporters.

However, another senior State Department official said that the Iranians have had “an off ramp” for three years but “the Iranians keep rejecting it.” They cited rebuffed efforts by other countries like Japan and France.

“The ball is in Iran’s court,” a third senior State Department official said.

4:37 p.m. ET, January 3, 2020

Homeland Security is considering updating terrorism threat advisory

From CNN's Geneva Sands

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In the wake of the drone strike against Qasem Soleimani, the Department of Homeland Security is considering whether to update its terrorism threat advisory, known as the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), according to a senior DHS official. 

The most recent NTAS bulletin, which gives an overview of terrorism threats and trends, has no mention of Iran. The current bulletin, which was issued in July, says the US continues to "face one of the most challenging threat environments since 9/11."

The department has not so far, but can also issue "elevated alerts" and "imminent alerts," which warn of credible terrorist threats. 

Homeland Security officials remain concerned about threats to cyber, critical infrastructure, foreign airports, members of the US Coast Guard in the region and other soft targets, according to the senior official.