Soleimani’s killing lights the fuse of war – Iraqi PM

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi speaks during a symbolic funeral ceremony of Major General Ali al-Lami, who commands the Iraqi Federal Police's Fourth Division, who was killed in Salahuddin, in Baghdad, Iraq October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily/File Photo

Iraq’s prime minister condemned the U.S. killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and said it would “light the fuse” of war.

The United States killed Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and architect of Iran’s spreading military influence in the Middle East, in a strike at Baghdad airport. Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, was also killed.

Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the top commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, helped Iran fight proxy wars across the Middle East by inspiring militias on the battlefield and negotiating with political leaders. 

His death on Friday in a U.S. air strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport marked the end of a man who was a celebrity at home and closely watched by the United States, Israel and Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon said the strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.

“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander who holds an official position is considered aggression on Iraq … and the liquidation of leading Iraqi figures or those from a brotherly country on Iraqi soil is a massive breach of sovereignty,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said.

Abdul Mahdi, whose government has the backing of Iran, said in a statement the U.S. air strike was “a dangerous escalation that will light the fuse of a destructive war in Iraq, the region, and the world.”

Israel put its military on heightened alert on Friday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip abroad after the U.S. killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani drew promises of revenge from Iran.

Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East and Iran’s top regional foe, has not publicly responded to the death of Quds Force chief Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the U.S. air strike in Baghdad.

But Netanyahu’s office confirmed that he would return home early from Greece. Israel’s Army Radio said the military was on heightened alert and Defence Minister Naftali Bennett met military and intelligence chiefs for a “situational assessment”.

Members of Netanyahu’s security cabinet have been asked not to comment on the high-profile killings, which Israeli media interpreted as a bid to stave off retaliation from Iran’s proxies and allies in the region.

These include the Tehran-backed Lebanese movement Hezbollah, and the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.