Iran Marks First Anniversary of Soleimani Assassination; Iran Issues Warrant for Trump’s Arrest; Iran Increases Uranium Enrichment, Seizes Tanker

Thousands commemorated the first anniversary of the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani with a mock funeral procession and candlelight vigil in Baghdad. Soleimani was killed in Baghdad in a missile strike on January 3, 2020. Soleimani was the leader of the IRGC’s elite Quds force. U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the strike. Thousands joined the procession along the road where Soleimani was killed. Reported by Fox News. Read more… In central Baghdad, tens of thousands of supporters of Iranian-backed paramilitary groups chanted anti-American slogans. Reported by Reuters. Read more… The new leader of the Quds force, Esmail Ghaani, later warned that Iran was still ready to respond to the attack. “From inside your own house, there may emerge someone who will retaliate for your crime,” Ghaani said in a televised event to mark the anniversary. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Days before the anniversary, Ebrahim Raisi, chief of Iran’s judiciary, said that no one, not even U.S. President Donald Trump, was “immune from justice” for his role in Soleimani’s killing. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Meanwhile, Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Hossein Salami warned that Iran was prepared to respond to any military pressure from the United States. Read more… Salami also warned U.S. President Donald Trump that “revenge on the perpetrators of Soleimani’s martyrdom is definite and serious.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Also, on the anniversary, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif urged U.S. President Donald Trump not to be “trapped” by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Washington blames Iranian-back militias for rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Baghdad. The warning came over Twitter, and stated, “Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly, particularly against your same BFFs.” Reported by Reuters. Read more… Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz fired back, calling the tweet “nonsense” and saying it was Israel that needed to be on the alert for possible Iranian strikes over the anniversary. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Iraq issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump over the Soleimani killing. The warrant was issued by an Iraqi judge charged with investigating the killing. Reported by AP. Read more…

Iran also resumed enriching uranium up to the 20% threshold. The enrichment is occurring at an underground facility. Twenty-percent enriched uranium is only one step away from weapons-grade enrichment. By enriching uranium to the 20% level, Iran breached yet another provision of the 2015 nuclear accords, making it more difficult for president-elect Joe Biden to re-enter the deal after Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2017 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… China urged calm and restraint after Iran announced it was resuming 20% enrichment. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says, however, that Tehran is “not insisting nor in a hurry for the U.S. to return to the deal.” Reported by Reuters. Read more… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran’s decision to enrich uranium to 20% proves Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons. He also said, “Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons.” Reported by i24 News. Read more… In return, Iran said it would deliver a “decisive response” to any Israeli move against it. Reported by Reuters. Read more… At the end of December, Iran warned Israel not to cross its “red lines” in the Gulf in the waning days of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. Reported by France24. Read more…

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps also seized a South Korean ship in the Persian Gulf. Iran claims the vessel was polluting the waters off Oman, but the more likely reason for the seizure is over the seizure of Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Iran denies the ship and crew are being held hostage. Reported by Reuters. Read more… South Korea has dispatched a delegation to Iran to negotiate the release of the ship and crew. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Shortly before the seizure of the tanker, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Chris Miller ordered the carrier USS Nimitz to return to the Persian Gulf amid increased threats against U.S. interests by Iranian officials. Reported by Fox News. Read more… The Pentagon has also deployed more B-52 bombers to the Middle East as tension with Iran rise again. The deployment is to demonstrate military commitment to the region. Reported by Fox News. Read more… A fourth B-52 has been deployed to the area. Reported by Fox News. Read more…