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Iran’s nuclear program ‘will have no limitations in production.’
Iran’s government said it was no longer abiding by a commitment it made under the 2015 nuclear deal and it would no longer limit its enrichment of uranium.
The announcement came after Iran’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the country’s nuclear policy in the aftermath of Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani’s assassination.
The statement said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will end its final limitations in the nuclear deal, meaning the limitation in the number of centrifuges. Therefore Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production including enrichment capacity and percentage and number of enriched uranium and research and expansion.”
But the government said Iran would continue its cooperation with International Atomic Agency and return to the nuclear deal if the sanctions against it were removed and Iran’s interests were guaranteed.
The announcement followed several steps by Iran to move away from the terms of the agreement, nearly two years after President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal. Since that renunciation, the Trump administration has imposed severe sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.
The nuclear agreement had ended many economic sanctions on Iran in return for its verifiable pledge to use nuclear power peacefully. The European parties to the deal, including Britain, France and Germany, had struggled to preserve the agreement amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Iran’s statement Sunday did not include details about its enrichment ambitions. And the country did not say it was expelling the inspectors who monitor its nuclear program.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear expert on Iran and associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote on Twitter that the announcement was “ambiguous,” with room for “both negotiation and escalation.”
Iraq’s Parliament votes to oust U.S. coalition troops.
Iraqi lawmakers voted 170-0 on Sunday in favor of expelling American troops from their country, just days after a United States drone strike killed the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force on Iraqi soil.
The vote was not final, many lawmakers did not attend the session and Iraq’s current caretaker government cannot pass the necessary legislation to oust the American military presence. But Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, leaving little doubt about his support.
The drone strike that killed the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, at the Baghdad airport on Friday also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias.
The attack was viewed in Iraq as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty, and the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it had summoned the American ambassador in Baghdad.
Iraq’s Parliament was divided over demands from angry citizens to expel American troops. Many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend Sunday’s session and did not vote.
Iranian officials reacted to the vote with congratulatory messages and said General Soleimani’s death had delivered a huge victory over the United States.
Hesameddin Ashena, a top adviser to President Hassan Rouhani, in a Twitter post, said: “Expanding friendship with our neighbors and domestic unity are the best gifts for protecting our national security. America and Israel are the only winners of a rift between neighbors.”
Asked about the vote on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States would continue to battle the Islamic State. “It is the United States that is prepared to help the Iraqi people get what it is they deserve and continue our mission there to take down terrorism from ISIS and others in the region,” he said in an interview on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
U.S.-led coalition suspends its fight against ISIS.
The American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria said on Sunday that it was pausing its yearslong mission of attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in both countries as United States forces braced for retaliation from Iran over the killing of its top military commander.
A statement from the American command pointed to recent attacks on Iraqi and American bases, one of which killed an American contractor last month. “We have therefore paused these activities, subject to continuous review,” it said of the fight against ISIS.
After the killing last week of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani — who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of troops over the years — the approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq and several hundred in Syria are focused on fortifying their outposts.
The assassination of General Suleimani removed the leader of one of the Islamic State’s most effective opponents. He had been responsible for building up the alliance of Iran-backed militias that played a significant role in driving the militants out of their strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Iran and its allies mourn the two commanders.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Iran to pay their respects to Maj. General Qassim Suleimani on Sunday, one day after joint funerals were held in Baghdad for the slain Quds Force leader and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful militia leader in Iraq and a close adviser to the general.
Both men were killed by an American drone strike early Friday at Baghdad’s airport, inflaming tensions between Washington and Tehran and raising fears that more violence would follow.
President Trump said he had ordered the airstrikes not just as retaliation for past attacks on Americans, but also to prevent “imminent and sinister attacks” on more Americans. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and its president, Hassan Rouhani, both promised that the country would take “revenge” for the killing.
Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sent a letter of condolence to Iran’s supreme leader that praised General Soleimani for helping fight the Islamic State and stabilize Iraq over the past decade.
“The unique role he played in many years battling ISIS in Iraq and all his efforts and sacrifices related to this are unforgettable,” Ayatollah al-Sistani wrote.
Iran’s regional reach was visible during the services in Baghdad, which were as close to a state ceremony in Iraq as any since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many mourners were members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, militias that came together to fight the Islamic State — and the most powerful of which are affiliated with Iran.
Tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched through Baghdad, waving flags and chanting that “revenge is coming” to the United States. And Ayatollah Khamenei visited General Suleimani’s family on Friday to pay his condolences.
In a television interview with Iran’s state television, the general’s son Hossien said, “My father always used to tell us, ‘I’m seeking martyrdom.’ He realized his dream.”
Mr. al-Muhandis, one of Iran’s top lieutenants in Iraq, was accused of playing a role in embassy bombings in Kuwait in the 1980s and funneling weapons to pro-Iranian militias in the 2000s. Many Iraqis saw him as a hero for his role in the battle against the Islamic State.
Trump and Pompeo say U.S. could attack Iran directly.
Echoing President Trump’s remarks the day before, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Sunday that the United States could attack Iran itself if leaders there took hostile actions against American interests in the aftermath of the drone strike that killed a top general.
“I’ve been part of the discussion and planning process — everything I’ve seen about how we will respond with great force and great vigor if the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision,” Mr. Pompeo said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We hope that they won’t, but when they do, America will respond.”
In appearances on five television news shows on Sunday morning, Mr. Pompeo underscored Mr. Trump’s message the previous day that the United States had chosen sites to attack within Iran if Tehran ordered assaults on American assets or citizens in retaliation for a drone strike that killed General Suleimani in Baghdad.
He tweeted on Saturday that the United States had pinpointed 52 targets in Iran if it retaliated for the killing, prompting Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to say on Twitter that “targeting cultural sites is a war crime.”
Mr. Zarif added, “whether kicking or screaming, end of U.S. malign presence in West Asia has begun.”
Mr. Trump said on Sunday that “media posts” would serve as notification to Congress about a potential strike.
Mr. Pompeo also blamed the 2015 nuclear deal for the rising hostilities. He told CNN that “this war kicked off” when the Obama administration entered into the agreement. Though Tehran had been abiding by the terms of the deal, Mr. Pompeo said, the agreement gave Iran “free rein” to expand its regional activities.
In protest over that latest threat, Iran on Sunday summoned the Swiss envoy representing American interests in Tehran, Reuters reported.
Hezbollah’s leader threatens U.S. military, but says civilians should not be targeted.
The leader of Hezbollah, the Islamist movement backed by Iran, warned in a speech Sunday that the killing of General Suleimani would only motivate Iran’s allies in the Middle East to strike harder against the United States and Israel.
“Assassinating General Suleimani means targeting the entire axis of resistance,” said the militant leader, Hassan Nasrallah, speaking via video feed at a memorial service. “The United States will leave our region humiliated. When U.S. troops leave the region in coffins, Washington will realize it has lost, and Trump will realize that he has lost the election.”
Mr. Nasrallah vowed to target American bases, soldiers and Marines — a response he called “retribution, a fair one” — but took care to add that he was “not talking about the American people at all.”
Hezbollah, a militia and political party based in Lebanon, is perhaps the most formidable of the network of proxy forces Iran has built up around the Middle East, which also includes pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.
The State Department has classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and the militia has battled and skirmished repeatedly with Israel. It maintained close ties with General Suleimani, and was now mourning him as a hero over the weekend
Mr. Nasrallah said that he had met with the general on Wednesday in Beirut, where General Suleimani had stopped before flying to Baghdad. The group released what appeared to be a photo of the two men meeting.
On Sunday, Mr. Nasrallah said that the general’s death marked “the start of a new stage, not just for Iraq or Iran, but for the entire region” — a stage he warned would be awash in anti-American violence.
Young Americans are alarmed by the threat of a wider war
As the United States has escalated its conflict with Iran, many in the generation of Americans who have grown up since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have become alarmed by the prospect of being swept up in an extended conflict.
Over high school lunch tables, teenagers speak of World War III. When they get home, they tearfully ask their parents whether they could be drafted. Social media feeds have exploded with predictions of military action and wisecracking memes about end times.
With an all-volunteer military fighting the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East that have been simmering since they were toddlers, many young men had grown used to thinking of the longstanding requirement that they register for the draft as a mere bureaucratic formality. “Now it’s like, what exactly did we sign up for?” said Adrian Flynn, a high school senior in New York who turned 18 in October.
And demonstrators took to the streets of cities across the United States over the weekend to protest the killing of an Iranian general and the possibility that it could lead to yet another war.
“Unless the people of the United States rise up and stop it, this war will engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences,” said a statement by the coalition behind the protests. That group included Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, an antiwar coalition, and Code Pink, an antiwar organization led by women.
More than 80 protests were organized, in places like Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Miami and Philadelphia. Marchers in Times Square in New York chanted, “U.S. out of the Middle East.”
Organizers had begun calling for nationwide protests early last week, before the drone strike that killed General Suleimani. They had already been fearful of the possible effects of rising tensions between the United States and Iran in recent months.
U.K. and Germany express sympathy for U.S. position.
Even as Western allies said they had been given no warning about the United States’ killing of General Suleimani, Britain’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said on Sunday that America had a right to self-defense in killing the Iranian military commander.
Asked in an interview with the BBC whether the killing was legal, Mr. Raab said, “There is a right of self-defense.”
“It was General Suleimani’s job description to engage proxies and militias,” Mr. Raab said, “to attack Western countries that were legitimately there.”
Describing General Suleimani as a “regional menace,” he said he did not agree that the killing was an act of war — a label that Iran’s United Nations ambassador used to describe the killing, and which analysts have said is applicable.
Mr. Raab said he had spoken to Iraq’s prime minister and president to urge a de-escalation of tensions in the region after the drone killing.
President Emmanuel Macron of France spoke by telephone with President Trump on Sunday, according to a statement from the French president’s office, and expressed solidarity with allies “in light of the attacks carried out in recent weeks against the coalition in Iraq,” his office said in the statement.
Mr. Macron also expressed concerns about “destabilizing activities of the Quds force under General Qassem Soleimani,” his office said, and urged Iran avoid “taking any measures that could lead to an escalation in the situation and destabilizing the region.”
In Germany, a government spokeswoman also expressed sympathy for the United States’ position. “The American action was a reaction to a series of military provocations for which Iran is responsible,” the spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer, said at a news conference on Friday, according to Reuters.
“We also see with great concern Iran’s activities in the region,” she said, adding that Berlin would aim to de-escalate the tensions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had criticized Europes response to the killing of General Suleimani, telling Fox News on Friday night that “the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be.”
Reporting was contributed by Alissa J. Rubin, Ben Hubbard, Falih Hassan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Vivian Yee, David D. Kirkpatrick, Edward Wong, Tess Felder, Yonette Joseph and Mariel Padilla.
Orignially published in NYT.