Crowds swarm Tehran to mourn slain Iran military leader Soleimani

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9:43 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

Our live coverage of the airstrike and the aftermath has moved here.

8:04 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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."

7:32 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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.
Iranians tear up a US flag during a demonstration in Tehran on January 3, 2020. Atta Kenare/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

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.

7:14 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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.

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

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."

7:41 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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.
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 Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

5:36 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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.
Mourners hold poster depicting Soleimani during his funeral ceremony in Tehran on Monday. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Iranians surround the coffins of Soleimani and others killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday.
Iranians surround the coffins of Soleimani and others killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday. Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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.
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. Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iranians set a US and Israeli flag on fire during the funeral procession.
Iranians set a US and Israeli flag on fire during the funeral procession. Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

4:06 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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.

“It’s stressful for sure, especially with everything that has escalated recently," she said. "He was supposed to be only doing training, and now it’s obviously transpired into something else."
Taylor Smith of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Taylor Smith of Fayetteville, North Carolina. CNN

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. 

3:46 a.m. ET, January 6, 2020

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: