PARIS – Global powers warned Friday that the American airstrike responsible for killing Iran’s top general made the world more dangerous and that escalation could set the entire Mideast aflame. Some U.S. allies suggested Iran shared in the blame by provoking the attack.
The deaths of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and several associates drew immediate cries for revenge from Tehran and a chorus of appeals from other countries seeking reduced tensions between Iran and the United States. As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called world capitals to defend the attack, diplomats tried to chart a way forward.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S. He moved quickly to appoint Soleimani's deputy, Maj. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, as the new commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, which undertakes the country's foreign campaigns, including in Syria and Yemen.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders to “exercise maximum restraint,” stressing in a statement that “the world cannot afford another war" in the Persian Gulf.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas echoed the U.N. chief saying, "A further escalation that sets the whole region on fire needs to be prevented." Maas also noted that the assault “followed a series of dangerous Iranian provocations.”
In the United Arab Emirates, which sits across the Gulf from Iran, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, called in a tweet for rational engagement and a “calm approach, free of emotion.” Qatar, which shares a massive underwater gas field with Iran, also called for restraint in a Foreign Ministry statement.
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s top regional rival, added its own voice of caution against "all acts that may lead to aggravating the situation with unbearable consequences.”
The White House sought to justify the killings with a tweet alleging that Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."