On June 30, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's address to the UN Security Council calling for an arms embargo on Iran to be extended was expected to dominate the international news agenda. However, Iran's judiciary stole the morning's headlines by issuing an arrest warrant for Donald Trump the day before. Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said on Monday that Trump, along with more than 30 others accused of involvement in the January 3 drone attack that killed Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, face "murder and terrorism charges". The prosecutor added that Tehran asked Interpol for help in detaining the US president. The same day, the US special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, denounced the warrant as a "propaganda stunt" at a press conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq, the Tehran-backed Lebanese organization Hezbollah urgently met with Iraqi militia leaders, seeking to unite them in the face of a huge void left by their powerful mentor's death, two sources with knowledge of the meetings said. The meetings were meant to coordinate the political efforts of Iraq's often-fractious militias, which lost not only Soleimani but also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a unifying Iraqi paramilitary commander, in the Jan. 3 attack at Baghdad airport, the sources said. While offering few details, two additional sources in a pro-Iran regional alliance confirmed that Hezbollah, which is sanctioned as a terrorist group by the United States, has stepped in to help fill the void left by Soleimani in guiding the militias. All sources in this article spoke on condition of anonymity to address sensitive political activities rarely addressed in public. Officials with the governments of Iraq and Iran did not respond to requests for comment, nor did a spokesperson for the militia groups.
KYIV – A leaked recording of an exchange between an Iranian air-traffic controller and an Iranian pilot purports to show that authorities immediately knew a missile had downed a Ukrainian jetliner after takeoff from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, despite days of denials by the Islamic Republic. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged the recording's authenticity in a report aired by a Ukrainian television channel Sunday night. In Tehran on Monday, the head of the Iranian investigation team, Hassan Rezaeifar, acknowledged the recording was legitimate and said it was handed over to Ukrainian officials. After the Jan. 8 disaster, Iran's civilian government maintained for days that it didn't know the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had shot down the aircraft. The downing of the jetliner came just hours after the Guard launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for an earlier American drone strike that killed the Guard's top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.
TEHRAN – The European Union's foreign affairs chief is traveling to Iran to meet with the country's leaders, the Iranian official news agency said on Sunday, amid high regional tensions. The visit is seen as the latest move by the EU to save the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have steadily risen since President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement and re-imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018. Tehran has responded by gradually rolling back its commitment to the deal. Josep Borrell will meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian officials on Monday, according to IRNA.
TEHRAN – An Iranian lawmaker on Tuesday offered a $3 million reward to "anyone who kills" U.S. President Donald Trump to avenge the assassination of a top general, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. Ahmad Hamzeh, a little-known member of the Majlis, made the offer on behalf of the people of Kerman, the hometown and final resting place of storied commander, Qassem Soleimani. "We will give $3 million to anyone who kills Trump," Hamzeh, who represents Kahnouj county near the southeastern city of Kerman, was quoted as saying by ISNA. He did not say who would pay the bounty offer, which comes a month ahead of a parliamentary election. Soleimani, one of the most popular public figures in Iran, was killed on Jan. 3 in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad airport.
WASHINGTON – With presidential tweets in Persian and stern warnings to the regime, Donald Trump's administration is rallying behind the latest protests in Iran -- and renewing suspicions that his real goal is regime change. Just a week ago, massive crowds took to the streets in Iran to mourn powerful Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad, and Tehran fired retaliatory missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq without inflicting casualties. Trump's response was, briefly, unusually conciliatory -- seeking a de-escalation with Iran and noting that they shared common interests, including fighting the Islamic State group. But all has changed since Saturday, when Iran admitted that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people, setting off a new round of protests by Iranians furious at the deaths and the regime's initial denial. The tragedy has "turned the tide against the Iranian leadership again," said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, which promotes conflict resolution.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – A flurry of diplomatic visits and meetings crisscrossing the Persian Gulf have driven urgent efforts in recent days to defuse the possibility of all-out war after the U.S. killed Iran's top military commander. Global leaders and top diplomats are repeating the mantra of "de-escalation" and "dialog," yet none has publicly laid out a path to achieving either. The United States and Iran have said they do not want war, but fears have grown that the crisis could spin out of Tehran's or Washington's control. Tensions have careened from one crisis to another since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad on Jan. 3 was seen as a major provocation.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday morning defended his decision to kill Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, contending Soleimani posed an impending threat to the United States but also saying that was not important, given the military leader's history. "The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was'imminent' or not, & was my team in agreement." "The answer to both is a strong YES., but it doesn't really matter because of his horrible past!" Since confirming that Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani had been killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, administration officials have claimed they acted because of an imminent risk of attacks on American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. Democrats and a few Republicans in Congress have questioned the justification of the attacks and said they have not been given adequate, detailed briefings. Last week Trump posited in an interview that Iran had been poised to attack four American embassies before Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other administration officials joined President Donald Trump in trying to draw attention to dissent in Iran instead of lingering questions about the scale of the threat used to justify a drone strike on Iran's top military leader. Esper added to the uncertainty over the intelligence behind the recent killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani when he said Sunday that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under possible threat. Trump said last Friday that Soleimani had been planning such an attack. In appearances Sunday on news shows, both Esper and national security adviser Robert O'Brien said they agreed that Iran might have hit more than just the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital. "It is certainly consistent with the intelligence to assume that they would have hit embassies in at least four countries," O'Brien said.
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper explicitly said Sunday that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under possible threat when President Donald Trump authorized the targeting of Iran's top commander, raising questions about the scale of the threat described by Trump last week. As the administration struggled with its justification for the drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Esper and other officials tried to refocus attention on voices of dissent in Iran. Esper said street protests in Tehran show the Iranian people are hungry for a more accountable government after leaders denied, then admitted shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane. The plane was downed shortly after Iran launched strikes against U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for Soleimani's killing. "You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government -- a different regime," Esper said.