Tag: General Soleimani
The world has been on alert since the United States killed Iran’s revered military general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad earlier this month.
- Iran and American embassies in China have been sparring on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform
- Various Chinese users have cheered and condemned Iran in equal measure
- Facebook and Instagram are removing pro-Iranian content, owing to US sanctions
For the moment, it appears as though Tehran and Washington will not be coming to armed blows in the immediate term, but that has not stopped the countries from trading barbs in the virtual sphere — in places largely unexpected.
In recent days, tensions between the US and Iran have been playing out on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform available to Chinese citizens.
“The end of the evil forces of the United States in Western Asia has begun,” read one Weibo post from the Iranian embassy in China.
“Qassem Soleimani has been supporting terrorism and inciting sectarian violence for decades, resulting in thousands of deaths … and supplying arms to militants acting for the Iranian regime in six countries, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and Afghanistan,” reads the US embassy’s Weibo post in reply.
The US embassy also released posts claiming that General Soleimani was responsible for “exporting” terrorism and sectarian violence, “killing thousands”.
It has also released posts quoting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has praised US President Donald Trump for the decision to kill the Iranian general.
In parallel moves, the Iranian embassy released Weibo posts quoting Iranian officials on the tensions, including the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“If the United States retaliates against [Iranian forces], it will surely get the strongest retaliation,” another Weibo post from the Iranian embassy read.
The Iranian embassy has also been taking screenshots of tweets from its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and reposting them on Weibo with Chinese translations.
Major Western online platforms, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are blocked from the Chinese internet, however, some users are able to get around this with the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).
Instagram wipes pro-Soleimani views, while Weibo doesn’t
Like everywhere else on the Chinese internet, content on Weibo is heavily censored by censors who take down information deemed critical of the ruling Communist regime, such as details about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre or the global condemnation of Beijing’s internment of Uyghur Muslims.
But presently, it appears as though China’s censors are letting Iran and the US go at each other in full view of the Chinese internet — a situation that is ironically, not mirrored on some US social media platforms.
Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, told CNN on Friday that it would be censoring posts that voice support for General Soleimani to comply with US sanctions, in addition to posts that voice support for Iranians currently under American sanctions.
Various Iranian officials and industrial sectors of the country are currently subject to US sanctions, which were intensified after Iran’s missile strikes on US military assets in Iraq.
@AliRabiei_ir tweet: In an undemocratic and unashmed action,Instagram has blocked an innocence nations' voice protesting to the assesination ofGeneral #Soleimani,while the real terrorists have been given an open voice.The stick behind the democracy and media freedom is displayed in the nick of time
In April, Instagram suspended General Soleimani’s account after Washington designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation.
Instagram is one of the few Western social media platforms allowed on Iran’s state-censored internet, though users can access Facebook and Twitter through VPNs.
But in recent weeks, it has become clear that Instagram has removed major Iranian accounts, rather than just individual posts.
@maasalan tweet: IRGC affiliated Tasnim News Agency ( @Tasnimnews_Fa ) has its Instagram profile removed following Soleimani’s assassination. Unclear if because of Soleimani’s terrorist designation and their coverage of him. Semi-official @FarsNews_Agency remains live, with commemorative posts.
Consequently, numerous Iranian journalists, human rights activists, news organisations and influencers have seen their accounts shut down in recent weeks, according to Coda, an investigative journalism website.
“Every person I saw that posted about Soleimani on Instagram, almost all of their posts have been removed,” Amir Rashidi, an Iranian internet security and digital rights researcher, told Coda.
“The only platform where we could freely express ourselves was Instagram … And now Instagram is censoring us.”
Among Chinese social media observers, the online tiff between the Iranian and American embassies has been dubbed “the battle over Liangma Bridge”, as the respective embassies are about 1.5 kilometres apart, separated by the Liangma River in central Beijing.
Under the embassies’ respective posts, there are a variety of views reflected.
On Wechat, I’ll be a silent observer
WeChat is a central part of life in China, used for almost everything from transferring money to booking hotels. But now that I know my private messages are being censored, I am considering quitting.
“Where there is oppression, there is resistance. Great Iranian people, add oil! To expel the fascist America from West Asia!” one Weibo user, Liu Yan Fei Yu, wrote.
Weibo users who wrote posts in support of Iran received a special shout-out last Thursday.
“At this very moment, we deeply feel the warmth from the messages from Chinese netizens,” the post read.
However, Chinese users who were praised for submitting pro-Iranian views last week had shifted their tone, after it was revealed a missile fired by the Islamic Republic struck a Ukrainian commercial airliner, killing all 176 people onboard.
“Iran, an evil country, is a threat to all mankind if it stays on the Earth,” wrote another user.
“If it strikes the United States, it will also notify in advance, but it will strike the flight with their own people in it for real!”
Presently, it is unclear if these Beijing embassies will be drawn into more virtual sparring, but in Iran’s case, Chinese social media might be one of the few places the Islamic Republic might have left to state its case abroad.
@DabuekDumbrill tweet: Twitter banned the president of Syria and an Iranian leader. Now an Iranian & American ambassador are arguing with each other on Weibo… In Chinese. The Chinese internet has become the most uncensored environment for international political discussions. #irony
On Saturday, the Weibo account of Iran’s embassy in China said Iran reserved “the right to take further appropriate countermeasures” against Washington, and would “continue to maintain communication and coordination with partners in and outside the region, especially with China”.
For other Weibo users, the irony of Chinese social media — and the Chinese language — becoming the place for an online US-Iran fight, has not been lost.
“Here’s the world’s largest imperialist country and the world’s largest theocratic republic, on a social media platform of the world’s largest socialist nation, using Standard Chinese to engage in a fierce diplomatic fight,” another user wrote.
Iran has launched strikes against US troops in Iraq.
If you’re not sure exactly what’s going on, or why this is happening, this is the perfect place to start.
Let’s get you up to speed and answer five quick questions about the situation.
1. What has happened?
Iran has confirmed it launched “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles at two military bases — Al Asad and Irbil in Iraq — that house US troops.
The Pentagon says the bases came under fire from “at least a dozen ballistic missiles” and it was clear the missiles were launched from Iran.
The US and Iraq both confirmed their forces did not suffer casualties from the strikes. Germany, Denmark, Norway and Poland also said none of their troops in Iraq were hurt.
2. Why has this happened?
On January 4, the United States killed Iran’s most powerful military general, Qassem Soleimani, by firing three missiles at Baghdad airport.
General Soleimani was the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and responsible for many of the nation’s proxy wars in the Middle East.
In a statement after the attack, the Pentagon said the strike was aimed at “deterring future Iranian attack plans” and it carried out the attack to “protect US personnel abroad”.
For context, academic Ranj Alaaldin described the attack as “bigger than taking out Osama bin Laden”.
On Tuesday millions of people attended funerals for General Soleimani, the first time Iran honoured a single person with a multi-city ceremony.
3. Is this actually the start of World War III?
It’s far too early to tell what might happen next, despite #WorldWarThree trending on social media in the days since the US killed General Soleimani.
Journalist with Al Jazeera based in Doha, and a former global affairs and Indigenous affairs analyst for the ABC, Stan Grant, wrote that Iran was dwarfed by the United States by any measure.
“Its population is a quarter the size of America’s, its economy is barely 2 per cent as large. Its outdated weapons are no match for the most powerful military force the world has ever known,” he wrote.
There are many moving parts to this story that are yet to play out, but Grant writes that World War III will look vastly different to World War I and II.
“A look around the world tells us we may already be in it,” he writes.
Get the full picture: You can read his full analysis of the situation here.
4. Are any Australians involved?
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all Australian Defence Force and diplomatic personnel in Iraq were safe.
Mr Morrison said the Australian Government was monitoring the situation as it unfolds.
Australia’s National Security Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, but Mr Morrison said it would meet earlier if needed.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he had received a briefing on the situation from the Prime Minister, and said Australians were “located very close to where the Americans are located in the area”.
“They’re just next door,” Mr Albanese said.
5. What will happen next?
The frustrating answer is — we just don’t know. And we can’t do much but wait.
All eyes now turn back to the United States.
At a news conference, President Donald Trump said Iran appeared to be “standing down” and declared the US would impose further economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.
“The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent,” he said.
He added that Americans should be “extremely grateful and happy” with the outcome.
Crucially, Mr Trump stopped short of making any more threats of military actions.
Read more about the tensions between the US and Iran:
- Could tension between the US and Iran spark World War 3
- How capable is Iran’s military and what threat would it pose in a war
- Who was Qassem Soleimani and why is his death a watershed moment in the Middle East conflict
- Why did Donald Trump provoke Iran into striking US troops?
Iran, Islamic Republic Of
In his first comments since the surprise assassination of one of Iran’s top military generals, United States President Donald Trump says Qassem Soleimani should have been taken out “many years ago”.
- Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a US strike in Baghdad on Friday
- Mr Trump said the Iranian general was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans
- A UN human rights expert has called on the body to investigate the killing
On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed the killing in Baghdad of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.
The US carried out another air strike on Iran-backed militia in Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least five people according to officials.
The White House said in a tweet that General Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.
The US also maintains that General Soleimani was responsible for multiple attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past several months.
In a series of tweets, Mr Trump claimed General Soleimani was responsible for killing and wounding “thousands” of Americans, and was “directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people” without further elaboration.
“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” he wrote.
“They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
@realdonaldtrump tweet: ….of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!
The US strike has provoked fears of retaliation against the US from Tehran and its allies in the Middle East.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD was increasing security at critical infrastructure points throughout the city.
“Our world changed last night,” he said.
“We are now potentially facing a threat that’s different and greater than anything we have faced previously.
“Over the last 20 years, this city, more than any other, has suffered the results of terrorism.”
“We’re in, at this point, a de facto state of war between the United States of America and Iran.”
Officials said there is no specific, credible threat against New York City at this time, but that the city remains the top terror target in the country.
Hours after the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the US embassy in Baghdad urged all its citizens to leave Iraq immediately.
On Friday, US citizens working for foreign oil companies in the southern Iraqi city of Basra evacuated the country, the oil ministry said.
The Pentagon took steps to reinforce the American military presence in the Middle East in preparation for reprisals from Iran.
The US is sending nearly 3,000 more troops to the Middle East ordered by Mr Trump, defence officials said.
In Iran, a hard-line adviser to the country’s supreme leader who led Friday prayers in Tehran likened US troops in Iraq to “insidious beasts” and said they should be swept from the region.
“I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take a revenge that will change their daylight into a night-time darkness,” said the cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.
‘A more dangerous world’
When asked about the strike, France’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio that “military escalation is always dangerous”.
“We are waking up in a more dangerous world,” she said.
She indicated that urgent reconciliation efforts were being launched behind the scenes.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his foreign minister were reaching out to “all the actors in the region,” she said.
Russia and China expressed similar concerns, with both states warning about the strike’s escalation of tensions.
However, the United Kingdom and Germany have expressed their qualified understanding for the US strike.
German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer described the strike as “a reaction to a whole series of military provocations for which Iran bears responsibility,” pointing to attacks on tankers and a Saudi oil facility, among other events.
“We are at a dangerous escalation point and what matters now is contributing with prudence and restraint to de-escalation,” she said.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qassem Soleimani.”
“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate,” he said. “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions wrote on Twitter that the Trump administration’s actions were “most likely unlawful and violate international human rights law”.
“To be justified under international human rights law, intentionally lethal or potentially lethal force can only be used where strictly necessary to protect against an imminent threat to life,” she wrote.
“In other words, whoever targeted these two men would need to demonstrate that the persons targeted constituted an imminent threat to others.
“An individual’s past involvement in ‘terrorist’ attacks is not sufficient to make his targeting for killing lawful.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed yesterday that General Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack” without giving further details.
“He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action as he described it — that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent,” Mr Pompeo told CNN.
However, Dr Callamard said claims of self-defence were “unlikely” to meet the test of legal extrajudicial killing as “the test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation’.”
@AgnesCallamard tweet: The statement fails to mention the other individuals killed alongside Suleimani. Collateral? Probably. Unlawful. Absolutely.
She has called on the UN to use its muscle to investigate Washington’s actions.
A UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “deeply concerned with the recent escalation”.
“This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” the spokesperson said.
@AgnesCallamard tweet: There is no more pressing time for the #UN and its leadership to step up than now. But this statement does not bode well. You have the legal tools and the platform. Please use them. @UN @antonioguterres #WWIII
The United States killed Iran’s most powerful general in an air strike at Baghdad’s international airport on Friday, on the direct orders of President Donald Trump.
- The Pentagon says the strike was carried out to deter future attacks
- A former Iran Revolutionary Guard chief has vowed “vigorous revenge on America”
- The attack takes the US confrontation with Iran to a dangerous new level
The Pentagon confirmed the death of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.
Major-General Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed in the strike on their convoy near the Baghdad airport, an Iraqi militia spokesman told Reuters.
“The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces umbrella grouping of Iran-backed militias.
Three missiles hit the Baghdad airport, killing five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two “guests”, Iraqi paramilitary groups said. The rockets landed near the air cargo terminal, burning two vehicles.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
It said the military took “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani” and that it considered the Quds Force to be a foreign terrorist organisation.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” it said.
“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.
Explaining the strike in self-defence terms was also echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack”.
“He was actively plotting in the region to take actions — a big action as he described it — that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent,” Mr Pompeo told CNN.
@SecPompeo tweet: Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more.
He added that the United States has fortified its assets in the region and is prepared for any possible retaliation, including a cyber attack.
The US maintains that Soleimani was responsible for multiple attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months, including one on December 27 in which a US civilian contractor and Iraqi personnel were killed during a rocket attack on a military base in northern Iraq.
Mr Trump tweeted a photo of the American flag without explanation just moments before the US claimed responsibility for the air strike.
“Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” Mr Trump later tweeted.
A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei, vowed “vigorous revenge” against America for the killing of General Soleimani, describing him as a “martyr”.
“Martyr Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani joined his martyred brothers, but we will take vigorous revenge on America,” Mr Rezaei said in a post on Twitter.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the assassination would strengthen resistance against the US and Israel in the region and the world, Iranian state television reported.
“The brutality and stupidity of American terrorist forces in assassinating Commander Soleimani … will undoubtedly make the tree of resistance in the region and the world more prosperous,” Mr Zarif said in a statement.
Twitter Ranj Alaaldin: Make no mistake – this is bigger than taking out Osama bin Laden.
Academic Ranj Alaaldin, author of Sacred Warriors, a recent book on Shiite militias and the future of Iraq, said on Twitter that the significance of the hit could not be overstated.
“Make no mistake — this is bigger than taking out Osama bin Laden,” he wrote.
General Soleimani, who was responsible for coordinating foreign military actions, survived several assassination attempts against him by Western, Israeli and Arab agencies over the past two decades.
Earlier this week, top Iraqi militia commander al-Muhandis, also known as Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, warned of a strong reaction against US forces following air strikes.
“The blood of the martyrs will not be in vain and our response will be very tough on the American forces in Iraq,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Trump administration conducted the airstrike without consulting Congress or having any authorisation to use military force against Iran.
She said the move “risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Mr Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox”.
The former vice-president joined other Democratic White House hopefuls in criticising Mr Trump’s order, saying it could leave the US “on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”
Democrats also acknowledged the threat formerly posed by General Soleimani, with Senator Elizabeth Warren calling him “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.”
However she added, Mr Trump’s “reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”
The US is now urging citizens to leave Iraq “immediately”, citing “heightened tensions in Iraq and the region”.
“Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has issued similar advice, urging Australians in the country to “leave Iraq as soon as possible” if it is safe to do so.
It noted that “the security situation could worsen with little warning”, and has warned of a “very high risk of violence, armed conflict, kidnapping, and terrorist attack”.
The BBC also reports that Dutch nationals have been advised to leave Baghdad.
The ABC has approached Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne for comment.