Unintended consequences of assassination widen as Trump threatens further escalation of violence

By | January 5, 2020

The New York Times reports:

The consequences of the American assassination of a top Iranian general rippled across the Middle East and beyond on Sunday, with Iran ending commitments it made to limit its nuclear fuel production and Iraqi lawmakers voting to expel American forces from their country.

Steeling for retaliation from Iran, an American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria suspended the campaign it has waged against the Islamic State for years, and hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the street to mourn the assassinated general, Qassim Suleimani.

Warning Iran not to attack, President Trump said the United States had pinpointed 52 targets in Iran — including cultural sites. The sites, he said, represented the 52 American hostages held at the United States Embassy in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Amid outrage in Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared that “targeting cultural sites is a war crime” and predicted that the “end of U.S. malign presence in West Asia has begun.”

Mr. Trump has said that the killing of General Suleimani on Friday was aimed at preventing war.

But so far, it has unleashed a host of unanticipated consequences that could dramatically alter where the United States operates. Increasingly, the killing appeared to be generating effects far beyond the United States’ ability to control.

That may include Iran’s nuclear future.

On Sunday, the Iranian government said it was abandoning its “final limitations in the nuclear deal,” the international agreement intended to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. The decision leaves no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, the statement said, including on uranium enrichment, production, research and expansion.

Iran will, however, continue its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and return to the nuclear deal if the economic sanctions imposed on it are removed and Iran’s interests guaranteed, the government said. American sanctions have hit Iran’s oil-based economy particularly hard. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports:

While Saudi officials have long urged the United States to take stronger action against what they say is Iran’s unchecked expansionism in the region, they have also expressed discomfort at the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.

[Iraq’s caretaker prime minister] Abdul Mahdi suggested Sunday that Iran and the Saudis had been engaged in dialogue to tamp down their feud, with Iraq playing the role of mediator. Abdul Mahdi said he had been expecting to meet with Soleimani on the day he was killed. “He came to deliver me a message from Iran, responding to the message we delivered from Saudi Arabia to Iran,” the prime minister said, without providing details. [Continue reading…]

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