PARIS: Global powers warned on Friday that the world has become a more dangerous place and urged restraint after the US assassinated Iran’s top general, although Britain and Germany also suggested that Iran shared blame for provoking the targeted killing that dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the Mideast.
China, Russia and France, all permanent members of the UN Security Council, took a dim view of the US airstrike near Baghdad’s airport early Friday that killed General Qassem Soleimani.
The White House said in a tweet that Soleimani, who led the elite Quds Force responsible for Iran’s foreign campaigns, “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
“We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin told RTL radio. “When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is underway.”
Russia likewise characterized the deadly US strike as “fraught with serious consequences.” A foreign ministry statement warned that “such actions don’t help resolve complicated problems in the Middle East, but instead lead to a new round of escalating tensions.”
China described itself as “highly concerned.”
“Peace in the Middle East and the Gulf region should be preserved,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “We urge all parties concerned, especially the United States, to maintain calm and restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions.”
But while echoing the concerns of other Security Council members about spiraling tensions, Britain and Germany broke ranks, voicing qualified understanding for the US position.
German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer described the US 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. Germany currently sits on the UN Security Council but is not a permanent member.
The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said “we have always recognized the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani.”
“Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate,” he said. “Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
Montchalin, the French minister, indicated urgent reconciliation efforts are 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.
In the Mideast, the strike provoked waves of shock, fury and fears of worse to come.
Iraq’s most powerful Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in a speech during Friday prayers that the country must brace for
“very difficult times.”
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 to a nighttime darkness,“ said the cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.