Pope Francis called on Sunday for dialogue and restraint two days after the killing of a top Iranian military commander by the United States.
Speaking at the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican, the pope did not mention Iran by name but spoke of a terrible air of tension that could now be felt in many parts of the world, reported Reuters.
“I call on all sides to keep the flame of dialogue and self-restraint alight and ward off the shadow of hostility,” he said, adding:
War only brings death and destruction.
Qassem Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the mastermind of its regional security strategy. He was killed early Friday near the Baghdad international airport along with senior Iraqi militants in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump. The attack has caused regional tensions to soar and tested the US alliance with Iraq. Fearing escalation, NATO has suspended it’s training activities in Iraq, while the British Navy has committed to escort every UK-flagged ship across the Straits of Hormuz.
Showing no signs of seeking to reduce tensions, the US president has since issued a stern threat to Iran on Twitter, saying that the US has targeted 52 Iranian sites that it would strike if Iran attacks Americans or US assets in response to the US drone strike that killed Soleimani.
The US strike on Soleimani’s convoy at Baghdad airport also killed Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and it raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.