By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for all parties to exercise "maximum restraint" in the Persian Gulf after the U.S. assassinated a top Iranian general in Iraq.
Guterres "is deeply concerned with the recent escalation," his spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement.
"This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf," Haq added.
Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force who was the chief architect of Iran's Middle East operations, was killed early Friday morning in a U.S. airstrike outside of Baghdad's airport. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) was also killed in the airstrike.
Soleimani's slaying marks a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have often been at a fever pitch since President Donald Trump chose in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear pact world powers struck with Tehran.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who gave Soleimani the country’s highest honor last year, vowed “severe retaliation” in retaliation for his killing as Trump struck a hawkish tone of defiance.
Following the death of an American contractor in rocket attacks on a U.S. base in Iraq, Washington carried out a series of strikes on Sunday that led to the deaths of at least 25 fighters from the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
The strikes were the first major attack by the U.S. on an Iran-linked group since the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad was then attacked by a large crowd of angry protesters on Tuesday, leading to a two-day standoff between U.S. forces and protesters.
The Pentagon accused Soleimani of plotting the embassy attack and planning to carry out additional attacks on U.S. diplomats and service members in Iraq and the region.
Trump said Soleimani was behind the deaths and woundings of thousands of Americans, and claimed "he was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself."
Although Iran is "not able to properly" admit it, Soleimani was both "hated and feared" within the country, the U.S. president said in a series of tweets.
"He should have been taken out many years ago!" Trump added.