Global powers are warning that the world has just become a more dangerous place as thue U.S. urges its citizens to leave the area "immediately" after the targeted killing by the U.S. of Iran’s top general.
The State Department posted a statement on its website and on Twitter urging citizens to leave Iraq and the closed U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
"U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land," the statement read. "Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice."
Iran vowed "harsh retaliation" for the airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force.
The move marks a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Iran. Iran's supreme leader warned that a "harsh retaliation is waiting" for the U.S. after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the "international face of resistance." Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter "the great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime."
The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Iraqi officials said.
If Iran decides to follow through on its vow of harsh retaliation for the airstrike, it can call upon heavily armed allies across the Mideast.
The network of allies was developed over nearly two decades by Soleiman, who enjoyed the fierce loyalty of tens of thousands of fighters in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and the Gaza Strip who received aid, arms and training from Tehran. Many of them are within easy striking distance of U.S. forces and American allies, including Israel.
China, Russia and France, all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, took a dim view of the U.S. airstrike. A French deputy minister said “We are waking up in a more dangerous world.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. airstrike as “an adventurist step" that will inflame the Mideast. China said it was “highly concerned.”
Russian's foreign minister also warned that Iran's nuclear deal with world powers is in danger of “falling apart" as neither the United States nor the European Union is complying with the accord. Sergei Lavrov accused the U.S. of “towing” a “destructive line” by withdrawing from the deal and imposing sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy.
The 2015 deal between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. In response to the U.S. sanctions, Iran has inched its way toward violating the accord.
Lavrov said Russia would demand full compliance from both the U.S. and the EU, saying otherwise the agreement should be considered “no longer existing.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said President Donald Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox" with the Pentagon's actions.
The former vice president joined other Democratic White House hopefuls in criticizing Trump's order, saying it could leave the U.S. “on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East." Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called the attack “dangerous," while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said it was “reckless."
The price of oil has surged since news of the airstrike broke and uncertainty has gripped global investors, who are trying to gauge what Iran's response will be.
In previous tensions with the U.S., Iran has threatened the supply of oil that travels from the Persian Gulf to the rest of the world. About 20% of oil traded worldwide travels by ship from the gulf.
Analysts say Iran is expected to respond to the killing but perhaps not immediately. The international benchmark for crude oil jumped 4.1%, or $2.70, to $68.95 a barrel on Friday.
Urgent reconciliation efforts are being launched behind the scenes.