Morning Brief

Iran Vows to Avenge U.S. Killing of Suleimani

Suleimani managed Iran’s covert military operations and intelligence gathering in the Middle East.

Iranian protesters hold a portrait of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, during a demonstration in Tehran on Dec. 11, 2017.
Iranian protesters hold a portrait of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, during a demonstration in Tehran on Dec. 11, 2017. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: A U.S. drone strike kills Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani at Baghdad’s international airport, officials warn the weekend could see Australia’s worst bushfires yet this season, and Spain’s parliament is expected to confirm Pedro Sánchez as prime minister.

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Key Iranian General Killed in U.S. Drone Strike

Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who led Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport on Fridayan attack ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump. Suleimani managed Iran’s covert military operations and intelligence gathering in the Middle East, and was seen by some as a possible future leader of Iran.

The deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces and three others were also killed.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said “a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”

The attack followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday against another Iran-backed militia, which prompted a two-day retaliatory attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The Pentagon accused Suleimani of directing that attack.

Preemptive strike. The Pentagon also said that Suleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” Earlier on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the United States might take preemptive action against the Iran-backed militias.

“The game has changed and we are prepared to do what is necessary to defend our personnel and our interests and our partners in the region,” Esper said.

Deadly puppet master. Retired U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal profiled Suleimani in FP in 2018. “His brilliance, effectiveness, and commitment to his country have been revered by his allies and denounced by his critics in equal measure,” he wrote. “Suleimani is arguably the most powerful and unconstrained actor in the Middle East today.”

What We’re Following Today

Australia’s bushfires expected to worsen. Devastating bushfires in Australia’s southeast are expected to worsen this weekend, prompting one of the largest emergency evacuations in Australia’s history. On Thursday, tens of thousands of evacuees were stuck in traffic for hours in southeastern New South Wales. In Victoria, the Australian navy began evacuating people by ship from a coastal town where 4,000 residents have been stranded on the beach. At least eight people have been killed, with 28 more unaccounted for in Victoria.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited Cobargo, New South Wales, where he was heckled by residents who blamed his government for failing to provide enough  firefighting equipment for the area. (Morrison has long been criticized for his climate change policies, which some say prioritize the economy over the environment.) The emergency services minister for New South Wales has also been criticized: He has not yet returned from vacation.

Spain’s political deadlock set to end. A Catalan separatist party, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), announced Thursday that it would abstain from Spain’s parliamentary vote in the coming days on confirming the Socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez as prime minister. The move paves the way for Sánchez’s Socialists to rule in coalition with the leftist Podemos party, following months of political deadlock and two inconclusive elections in 2019. The deal struck with the ERC stipulates that negotiations over the future of Catalonia will begin 15 days after Sánchez’s cabinet takes office.

Interpol issues arrest warrant for Nissan exec. Lebanon has received an arrest warrant from Interpol targeting Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman who fled there via private jet from Japan, where he faced criminal charges for alleged financial crimes. Ghosn revealed on Tuesday that he was in Lebanon, and he is a Lebanese citizen. It is not yet clear if authorities will summon him for questioning due to the warrant, but an official told Reuters that Lebanon does not extradite its citizens. Ghosn fled Japan after learning his second trial would be delayed until next year.

Keep an Eye On

Floods in Jakarta. Major flooding in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has killed at least 30 people and forced tens of thousands out of their homes this week—with more heavy rains expected. Indonesia has repeatedly proposed relocating the capital from flood-prone Jakarta, which has a metro area population of more than 30 million. The plans are dubious, as Stanley Widianto writes in FP.

Turkey’s Libya deployment bill. On Thursday, Turkey’s parliament passed a bill that would allow its troops to be deployed in Libya, signaling more military cooperation between the countries in the future—though it’s not likely that Turkish troops will be on the ground in Tripoli immediately. Turkey and Libya signed a military and security agreement in November.

Police violence in India. As protests against India’s controversial citizenship law sweep the country, young Muslim demonstrators have alleged violence at the hands of the police, the New York Times reports. Those protesting against the new law are rallying around secular principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution, Kapil Komireddi writes in FP.

Odds and Ends

Germany’s main rail provider has reduced fares for long distance rail travel for the first time in 17 years, the Guardian reports. As part of a measure to combat the climate crisis, tickets for Deutsche Bahn’s Intercity Express trains for journeys of more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) will cost 10 percent less. The company projects the move will add 5 million passengers annually.

That’s it for today. 

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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