World leaders warned Friday that the world has become a more dangerous place and urged restraint after the U.S. assassinated Iran’s top general, although Britain and Germany suggested that Iran shared blame for provoking the targeted killing that dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East.
China, Russia and France, all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, took a negative view of the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad’s airport early Friday that killed Gen. 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.”
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world could not afford another Gulf war.
"The secretary-general has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf," a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.
"This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf."
Russia offered condolences to Iran while condemning the attack.
"We consider the murder of Soleimani as a result of an American missile strike on the outskirts of Baghdad as an adventurous step that will lead to an increase in tension in the entire region. Soleimani has faithfully served the cause of protecting the national interests of Iran. We express our sincere condolences to the Iranian people," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
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 U.S. position.
German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer described the U.S. 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 U.N. 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 Middle East, the strike provoked waves of shock, fury and fears of worse to come.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Friday slammed the killing.
The airstrike is a "breach of Iraq’s sovereignty," Abdul-Mahdi said in a written statement. This act may lead to a war in Iraq, the region and the world, he added.
The airstrike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militant group or Popular Mobilization Units.
Abdul-Mahdi stressed that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were the symbols of victory against the Daesh terrorist group.
He added that the strike also breaches the conditions for the presence of the U.S. forces in Iraq.
Abdul-Mahdi said he invited the Parliament to convene an extraordinary session to take legislative actions that would safeguard Iraq's dignity, security and sovereignty.
Conveying condolences to Iran for the killing of Soleimani, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Friday ordered the Al-Mahdi Army and Yawm Al-Mawoud Brigade to be ready to protect Iraq.
Al-Sadr stressed that the U.S. attack will not end their struggle and determination.
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 U.S. troops in Iraq to “insidious beasts" and said they should be swept from the region.
“I am telling Americans, especially Trump, we will take revenge that will change their daylight into a nighttime darkness," said the cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami.
The Palestinian Hamas group also mourned Soleimani's death.
"Hamas mourns commander Soleimani and the Iraqi martyrs who were killed today in a U.S. airstrike," said the Hamas statement.
Lebanon's foreign ministry condemned the killing, calling it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation against Iran.
The ministry also called for the country and wider region to be spared any repercussions from the U.S. strike.