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Crowds swarm Tehran to mourn slain Iran military leader Soleimani

See crowds chant 'Down with the US' at Soleimani funeral

What we're covering here

  • Funeral for general in Iran: Huge crowds gathered Monday in Tehran to mourn the death of Qasem Soleimani, the general who was killed by a US airstrike in Iraq last week.
  • Iran vows to retaliate: Soleimani’s successor pledged to remove the US from the region, and the military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader told CNN that the country’s response to the US strike would “for sure be military.”
  • Iraq votes to kick out US troops: Iraqi lawmakers, outraged over the killing of Soleimani on Iraqi soil, voted to expel US forces from the country. President Trump threatened to sanction Iraq if US troops were kicked out.
  • Blow for nuclear deal: Iran said Sunday that it would no longer limit itself to the restrictions laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal. 
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Our live coverage of the airstrike and the aftermath has moved here.

Iran's foreign minister taunts Trump, says "end of malign US presence" in region has begun

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asked President Donald Trump whether he had ever seen “such a sea of humanity,” sharing photos of the thousands who had turned out to mourn Qasem Soleimani in Iran on Monday.

Zarif claimed that the “end of malign US presence in West Asia has begun.”

US drone strike marks "first step towards end" of Iran nuclear deal, Germany foreign minister says

The killing of Soleimani could mark the “first step towards the end” of the Iran nuclear deal, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned on Monday, a day after Iran announced it would no longer limit itself to the restrictions imposed by the pact.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, was implemented in 2016, freezing Iran’s nuclear program in return for a progressive lifting of international sanctions. On Sunday, Iran announced that it would “set its limits based on its technical needs,” essentially rendering the JCPOA redundant if technically still alive.

“What was announced is not in line with the nuclear agreement…[the situation] has not got easier, and this could be the first step towards the end of this agreement, which would be a big loss,” Maas said in an interview with German public radio station Deutschlanfunk.

“We will now weigh this up very, very responsibly,” Maas added.

Iranians tear up a US flag during a demonstration in Tehran on January 3, 2020.

According to Maas, European leaders joined US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a call over the weekend to discuss the situation. Maas said Pompeo “was not so pleased that [the European leaders] did not agree one hundred percent” with the US position. 

Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell reiterated the EU’s call for the “full implementation” of the JCPOA agreement, expressing in a tweet shared on Monday his “regret” that Iran had decided to continue enriching uranium without limitation.  

“Full implementation of [the] Nuclear Deal by all is now more important than ever, for regional stability & global security,” Borrell tweeted.

The move marks Iran’s fifth step in a gradual divorce from the nuclear deal, having chipped away at its provisions in response to the US withdrawal from the deal and re-imposition of tough sanctions. It now no longer recognizes any limits on the operational aspects of its nuclear program, including in enrichment capacity, the extent (or degree) of enrichment, and nuclear research and development.

Iraq will respond with "legal action" if Trump imposes sanctions, lawmaker says

Iraqi Shiite lawmaker Anaam al-Khizaee has said that Iraq will respond with “legal action” if US President Donald Trump follows through with a threat to impose sanctions on the country, a US ally.

Trump made the remarks on Sunday, reacting to a vote by the Iraqi Parliament to end the presence of “all foreign troops on Iraqi soil.”

The vote represented a rebuke of the US over its targeted airstrike on Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq early Friday, which was condemned by Iraqi lawmakers as a flagrant breach of the country’s sovereignty and a violation of international agreements.

“My next response to the American violation of Iraq sovereignty will be by criminalizing the American troops” with legal action, al-Khizaee said in a post to Twitter. 

Responding to the vote on Sunday, Trump threatened: “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis. We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever.”

“It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” he added.

Trump said the costs of maintaining an American troop presence in the country over the past many years should be repaid by Iraq if the country chooses to rescind the agreement allowing them to stay.

The US and Iran are on heightened alert after a weekend of military action. Here's how it unfolded

Days after President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the US is bracing for possible retaliatory actions by Iran.

Before the strike, the US had been pushed to the brink of retaliation against Iran or its proxies on multiple occasions, specifically after attacks last summer on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and Iran’s downing of a US drone in June.

Here’s how tensions between the two nations have escalated in recent weeks:

December 27: A rocket attack believed to be linked to a Shiite militia group, backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several US and Iraq military personnel on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

December 29: According to the Pentagon, US forces conducted airstrikes at five facilities in Iraq and Syria controlled by a Shiite military group known as Kataib Hezbollah – the group that American officials blamed for the attack on a base near Kirkuk.

December 31: Pro-Iranian protesters, demonstrating against the American airstrikes, attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad, scaling walls and forcing the gates open.

January 3: Trump said he ordered a precision drone strike at the Baghdad airport to “terminate” Soleimani, a top Iranian commander who was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks on Americans diplomats and military personnel.” Others were killed in the attack.

January 4: Iran vowed retaliation against the US, in response to the strike. If Iran targets “any Americans or American assets,” Trump has said he would sanction specific military strikes against Iranian cultural sites, which could amount to a war crime.

January 5: Soleimani’s body arrived in his home country, where thousands mourned him. Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, told CNN in an exclusive interview that Tehran would retaliate directly against US “military sites.”

Soleimani's successor vows revenge in "several steps" -- Iranian state media

Major General Ismail Qaani, who was announced as Soleimani’s successor just hours after he was killed, vowed retribution for his death on Monday.

“The revenge for Soleimani’s martyrdom is a promise given by God,” Qaani said, according to Iranian state-news agency IRNA.

“We promise to continue Martyr Soleimani’s path with the same strength and his martyrdom will be reciprocated in several steps by removing the US from the region.”

General Ismail Qaani -- Soleimani's long-time lieutenant and his successor as the leader of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force -- cries over Soleimani's coffin during the funeral ceremony on Monday.

Iranian media says millions of mourners turned out in Tehran for Soleimani's funeral procession

The streets of Tehran are packed with throngs of Iranians young and old to pay their respects to General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike last week in Baghdad, Iraq.

Iranian state media Press TV have put the number who turned out for his funeral procession as “millions,” although this is yet to be verified. 

Reza Moghaddam, who was among those on Revolution Street, in front of Tehran University, said that the cross-section of Iranian society at the event was unprecedented.

“I am 36 years old and have never seen such a crowd,” Moghaddam told CNN. “The most important thing is that they come from all groups.”

“From early morning, the people had gathered. They read the Quran. And they were crying, declaring readiness to counter Trump’s threat.”

Just weeks before, thousands of anti-government protesters had taken to the streets to voice their frustration with Iran’s leaders, as well as the crippling economic sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump administration. But widespread reverence for Soleimani, who commands a cult-like status in the country, has seemingly united Iranians — even critics of the government. 

Mourners hold poster depicting Soleimani during his funeral ceremony in Tehran on Monday.
Iranians surround the coffins of Soleimani and others killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday.
General Ismail Qaani -- Soleimani's long-time lieutenant and his successor as the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force -- cries over Soleimani's coffin during the funeral ceremony on Monday.
Iranians set a US and Israeli flag on fire during the funeral procession.

Families and loved ones say goodbye to troops deployed to the Middle East

As tensions rise in the Middle East following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, more than 3,000 US troops are preparing to deploy to the region – leaving behind thousands of family members and loved ones.

The city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is home to many of these families – it’s close to the Fort Bragg military installation, which houses more than 53,000 troops.

One woman told CNN her husband was already deployed for training. He had been due to train in Africa, then go to the Mediterranean to be stationed in European countries – but they found out today that he’s being rerouted to the Middle East.

Taylor Smith of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

When veteran Taylor Smith attended church on Sunday, he asked people to pray for his friend, who is being deployed – right before his pregnant wife is due to give birth.

 “The 82nd (division) is trying to push back his deployment date as much as possible, but his wife is a high-risk pregnancy. We believe he’s leaving somewhere around Tuesday, and his wife is due Wednesday,” Smith said. 

Angry Tehran crowds chant: "Down with the USA"

Thousands of people are mourning Qasem Soleimani in the Iran capital of Tehran – but they are also visibly angry.

Many in the crowd have been there for hours, since before sunrise, grieving for one of the country’s top military leaders. These past few days, there have also been furious anti-US protests, both in Iran and the Iraq capital of Baghdad.

“They want what they call hard revenge,” said CNN correspondent Frederik Pleitgen, who is in Tehran. “I don’t know if you can hear the chants coming from behind me – a lot of them say, ‘Down with the USA,’ also ‘Death to the USA.’”

“As they keep pointing out, he’s one of the people that fought against ISIS. They believe that he was someone that made this country safer. Of course, the international reputation that he has is very different, but for these folks here he is no less than a hero,” Pleitgen added.

Take a look at the crowds:

Crude oil tops $70 as US-Iran tensions escalate

Oil prices continued to rise today amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

Futures for Brent crude, the global benchmark, gained 2.4% to reach $70.24 per barrel — the first time prices have hit that amount in more than six months.

US oil futures advanced 2.1% to reach $64.36 per barrel.

Oil prices rose more than 3% on Friday after Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump. The killing risks escalating tensions further in the Middle East, which is home to major oil-producing countries and key energy supply routes.

Still, analysts said last week that they expect a limited response that won’t significantly disrupt crude supplies, keeping a lid on oil prices.

Read more here.

Here's what the funeral in Tehran looks like

Iranians pay homage to top military commander Qasem Soleimani in the capital Tehran on January 6, 2020.

The streets of Tehran are packed with mourners as the casket carrying slain general Qasem Soleimani – one of the most powerful and revered men in Iran – makes its way to Azadi Square.

Soleimani was killed last week by a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, ordered by US President Donald Trump.

Mourners hold posters of Soleimani in Tehran.

The casket is being carried to the square after a prayer ceremony earlier today at the mosque at Tehran University.

The streets of Tehran are packed with mourners.

Iran's military threat: The US can't protect everything all the time

Iran’s vow to strike the US military in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing presents the Pentagon with a massive force protection problem.

A military threat: In an exclusive CNN interview on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan – the military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – said that Tehran’s response to the US drone strike would be to hit back directly on American “military sites.”

What this means for the US: From Singapore to Djibouti and Bahrain to Brazil, today the US operates about 800 military bases and logistical facilities outside its sovereign territory – more than any other nation.

And every US installation – even every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine – could be a target. Presumably that could also include US Navy ships at sea, US Air Force planes at airports or in the world’s skies, or even US troops enjoying themselves off base and off duty.

“There are many ways to hit US personnel, and you can’t protect them all,” said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.

Proxy threat: The threat could come from Iranian forces themselves – or proxies deeply tied to Tehran, like the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has reach across the Middle East and into Africa.

While the US military will be on heightened watch, it’s hard to stay on constant alert.

“Tight security tends to impede your operations,” Schuster said, citing the need to resupply bases or ships and the movement of personnel in or out. “You can’t guard them all the time for a very long period of time.”

Read the full analysis here.

Soleimani's body will be carried 6 miles on the shoulders of mourners

Early this morning in Tehran, Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s body was carried to the mosque at Tehran University, where the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led a prayer.

Now, the body will be carried on the shoulders of his supporters towards Azadi Square in the Iranian capital – about six miles (10 kilometers) away.

Photos from the ground show the casket, decorated with the Iranian flag, held up by a sea of mourners dressed in black.

The funeral procession in Tehran on January 6, 2020.

Later today, the body will spend several hours at a shrine in the holy city of Qom, then be buried in Kerman, Soleimani’s hometown.

On the weekend, Soleimani’s body was carried through major cities in Iraq – from Baghdad to Karbala and Najaf.

Iran's Supreme Leader prayed over Soleimani's body in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the funeral ceremony of Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran on January 6, 2019.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prayed over the body of Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Monday, during funeral services at Tehran University. 

Large crowds gathered for the procession, dressed in black as they mourned Soleimani’s death. He had been revered as a hero in Iran, which is observing three days of national mourning.

After Soleimani’s death, Khamenei had vowed “harsh revenge awaits the criminals” who committed the act.

The funeral ceremony of Qasem Soleimani, held at Tehran University on January 6, 2019

Soleimani's daughter says her father's death "will bring darker days" for the US and Israel

Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s daughter warned that her father’s death “will cause more awakening in the resistance front” and “will bring darker days” for the United States and Israel.

Speaking in front of a large crowd at her father’s funeral procession at Tehran University on Monday, Zeinab Soleimani said President Trump’s “evil plan to cause separation between two nations of Iraq and Iran” by killing Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis “has failed.”

“Trump, you compulsive gambler, your evil plan to cause separation between two nations of Iraq and Iran with your strategic mistake in assassinating both Haj Qasem and Abu Mahdi has failed and it has only caused historical unity between two nations and their mutual eternal hatred for the United States,” Zeinab Soleimani said. 

“Hey crazy Trump, you are the symbol of stupidity and a toy in the hand of international Zionists,” she added in front of a large crowd at the procession.

“This heinous crime committed by the Americans expresses the spirit of criminality and bullying that covers all crimes of bloodshed, especially on the land of Palestine.” 

Uproar and consequences mount for Trump after Soleimani killing

President Donald Trump in Palm Beach Florida, on January 3, 2020.

The Trump administration is in danger of losing control of the political storm unleashed by its killing of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani.

President Trump’s claim that the drone strike last week made Americans safer is being challenged by cascading events that appear to leave the US more vulnerable and isolated.

Criticism in the US: The administration’s basis for the attack came under suspicion after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN that it was not “relevant” to reveal how imminent the attacks on US interests were that Trump said Soleimani was planning.

Dissent also emerged inside the administration over Trump’s vow to strike Iranian cultural sites if Tehran mounts a reprisal strike.

Anger in the Middle East: In signs of the deepening crisis, Iran on Sunday announced that it was shaking off restrictions on its uranium enrichment under the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Iraq’s Parliament also voted to expel US troops – which could imperil the fight against extremism and consolidate Iranian influence in Baghdad.

An isolated US: Washington’s European allies have distanced themselves from Trump’s assault. The US-led military coalition fighting ISIS temporarily stopped its counter-ISIS missions in order to focus on protecting Iraqi bases and coalition forces there from Iranian-backed militias. And in a sign of widening gaps between Iraq and the US, Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said he had been scheduled to meet Soleimani on the day he was killed.

Read more of the analysis here.

Iraqi Prime Minister was scheduled to meet Soleimani the morning he was killed

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said at a parliamentary session on Sunday that he was scheduled to meet with Qasem Soleimani on the morning the top Iranian general was killed.

Mahdi said Soleimani was supposed to carry a message from Iran “in response to the Saudi message that we brought to Iran in order to reach important agreements and situations regarding Iraq and the region.” 

Mahdi said he was optimistic after a visit to Saudi Arabia in September 2019 that Baghdad had a plan to open dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran to calm tensions in the region, according to an interview on state-run TV station al-Iraqiya. 

Following Mahdi’s speech at Parliament Sunday, Shia-majority blocs in the session chanted in support of Soleimani, and against the US and Israel.

Watch CNN’s Nic Robertson explain:

Protesters in the US call for peace in the Middle East

An anti-war march from the White House to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, on January 4, 2020.

Over the weekend, antiwar activists and protesters marched in major cities across the United States, including New York and Washington.

In the nation’s capital, they demonstrated outside the White House and the Trump International Hotel, holding signs that read “US out of Iraq” and “No war with Iran.”

In New York, protesters gathered in Times Square. “Use our taxes for schools, not for war,” one sign read. Others painted peace signs on their faces and held posters decrying American imperialism.

An anti-war protest at Times Square in New York on January 4, 2020.

“I’m here to take a stand against war because I have grown up in the last two decades with endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Mandy Ti, who marched in New York.

Smaller protests were also held in North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and other states.

US actress Jane Fonda (right) at an anti-war protest in Washington on January 4, 2020.

Crowds in Tehran mourn dead general in funeral procession

The funeral procession for Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, on January 6, 2020.

The sun has risen in Tehran, setting a golden glow on the buildings, and the streets are full of mourners dressed in black.

Music is blaring and the crowds are chanting as the funeral procession gets underway. Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s body arrived in the city on Sunday, and will now be carried to Azadi Square on the shoulders of supporters.

His body will rest in a shrine in the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, before arriving in its final resting place in Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman.

People at the funeral procession are holding portraits of Soleimani and waving Iranian flags. Some are carrying anti-US signs that read “Down with the USA.”

Soleimani was revered and beloved in Iran, and the country has declared three days of national mourning.

Pelosi says the House will introduce a resolution limiting Trump’s military actions

Late Sunday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter stating that the House of Representatives will introduce and vote on a war powers resolution to limit President Trump’s military actions regarding Iran.

The statement said:

As Members of Congress, our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe. For this reason, we are concerned that the Administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’s war powers granted to it by the Constitution.
This week, the House will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran. This resolution is similar to the resolution introduced by Senator Tim Kaine in the Senate. It reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities by mandating that if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.”

Pelosi reiterated that the killing of Soleimani “endangered our service members, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.”

OPINION: Soleimani's death won't stop a war that's been going on for more than 40 years

Editor’s note: Michael Ware is a former Time magazine and CNN correspondent who was based in Baghdad from 2003 to 2009. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

President Donald Trump says he ordered the killing of Iranian top general Qasem Soleimani “to stop a war.” But that’s simply not true.

Rather than stop a war, Trump just called Tehran’s bluff and wagered all in with the single most daring American act in a conflict that’s been raging for years.

Decades-long war: The war between the United States of America and Iran dates all the way back to 1953, when the US staged a coup d’etat in Iran to take down a popular, secular and nationalist prime minister.

This coup then led to the 1979 revolution that placed an ayatollah on the throne and the rule of the mullahs still in power today – the very same mullahs that Soleimani served.

When the Iranians revolted, they overran the US Embassy in Tehran, taking dozens of American diplomats and Marines hostage, as seen in the 2012 movie “Argo.”

That is when this war began. Not with this week’s drone strike.

Soleimani’s significance: Soleimani did more to shape then re-shape the region than any king, prince, sultan, president, or prime minister.

For more than 20 years, he commanded the Quds Force – arguably, the most elite special forces outfit in the region, if not the world. They are spies, soldiers and technical experts. In Western terms, they are a hybrid of Green Berets, SAS commandos and Delta Force operators all fused into one.

Washington understood his value – that is why Trump ordered the drone strike.

Will his assassination alter Iran’s strategic ambitions? No. But will it slow them down? Maybe.

Read the full op-ed here.

Democrats criticize Trump tweet: "You're not a dictator"

President Donald Trump in Miami, Florida, on January 3, 2020.

Posting on Twitter Sunday, President Trump appeared to declare that his tweets were enough to notify Congress of any US military action – which led to swift criticism from Democrats.

Trump tweeted: “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

The Democratic-led House Foreign Affairs committee shot back at Trump’s post in their own tweet Sunday night, stating, “This Media Post will serve as a reminder that war powers reside in the Congress under the United States Constitution. And that you should read the War Powers Act. And that you’re not a dictator.”

The War Powers Act: It states that when US armed forces abroad are “substantially enlarge(d)” without a war declaration, “the President shall submit within 48 hours … a report, in writing” to the House Speaker and to the President pro tempore of the Senate.

Here's a recap on what's going on

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, left, and Qasem Soleimani were killed in the US strike.

It’s been three days since President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Tensions are running high, with Iran promising revenge, Iraqi lawmakers pushing to expel US troops from the country, world leaders pleading for peace, and protests in several nations.

If you’re just joining us now, here’s what you need to know:

  • The airstrike: A drone strike on Friday killed Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force. It also killed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
  • The US argument: The Trump administration claims it killed Soleimani in response to an “imminent threat” to American lives. The administration has not yet shared the intelligence surrounding the threat, but Trump said he “may discuss” releasing some of that information.
  • The response from Iran: Iranian officials called the strike an act of terrorism and war, and vowed that “harsh revenge awaits the criminals” who killed Soleimani. Thousands have flooded into the streets for anti-US protests and prayers in mourning of Soleimani, who was revered as a national hero.
  • The response from Iraq: Iraq is also furious – the strike happened on its soil, and killed an Iraqi leader. The Iraqi Parliament voted earlier today to push the government to expel US troops. Protests have also been happening for days in Iraqi cities.
  • The response in the US: Republicans have almost uniformly supported the airstrike and thanked Trump for standing up for America, while Democrats expressed concern over whether the action was justified. Anti-war protests also took place in major cities like New York and Washington.

What to expect today: The funeral procession for Soleimani is continuing Monday in Iran, after his body arrived in the capital, Tehran. His body will be carried by supporters, placed in a shrine, and then finally be laid to rest in his hometown of Kerman.

US Customs denies reports of Iranian Americans being detained

US Customs and Border Protection has denied claims on social media that Iranian Americans were being detained and refused entry to the United States over the weekend.