Iran roll back from nuclear deal over US killing general
Iran said on Sunday it would further roll back its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, by enriching uranium without restrictions, but Tehran will continue to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog.
The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the US killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Friday.
Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets on Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani, the former leader of its expeditionary Quds Force that organises Tehran’s proxy forces in the wider Mideast.
The leader of one such proxy, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, said Soleimani’s killing made US military bases, warships and service members spread across the region fair targets for attacks. A former Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and “centres” like Tel Aviv could be targeted.
Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities.
It did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its programme.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s programme, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA will continue as before.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament voted in favour of a resolution calling for an end of the foreign military presence in their nation, an effort aimed at expelling the 5,000 US troops stationed there over the war against the Islamic State group.
Soleimani’s killing has escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats that have put the wider Middle East on edge. The conflict is rooted in President Donald Trump pulling out of Iran’s atomic accord and imposing sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Iran has promised harsh revenge” for the US attack, which shocked Iranians across all political lines. Many saw Soleimani as a pillar of the Islamic Republic at a moment when it is beset by US sanctions and recent anti-government protests.
Retaliation for Soleimani could potentially come through the proxy forces which he oversaw. Soleimani’s longtime deputy Esmail Ghaani already has taken over as the Quds Force’s commander.
The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia separately warned Americans of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.
Late Saturday, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad fell inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the US Embassy.
Trump wrote on Twitter afterward that the US had already targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.
Trump did not identify the targets but added that they would be “HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD”.
The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the US is a party, bars any military from direct hostilities against cultural property.” However, such sites can be targeted if they have been re-purposed and turned into a legitimate military objective,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Iran, home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites, has in the past reportedly guarded the sprawling tomb complex of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with surface-to-air missiles.
After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, authorities flew the general’s body to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. An honour guard stood by early Sunday as mourners carried the flag-draped coffins of Soleimani and other Guard members off the tarmac.
The caskets then moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani’s portrait. Demonstrators also carried red Shia flags, which traditionally both symbolise the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and call for their deaths to be avenged.
Officials brought Soleimani’s body to Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the bloody, 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran in which the general slowly grew to prominence. After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds, or Jersualem, Force, an expeditionary force that works with Iranian proxy forces in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Authorities then took Soleimani’s body to the city of Mashhad later Sunday. State TV estimated that a million mourners came out to the Imam Reza shrine to pay their respects, although that number could not be independently verified. Soleimani’s remains will go to Tehran and Qom on Monday for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial on Tuesday.