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At UN, US justifies killing Iranian commander as self-defense

January 9, 2020 at 5:18 am

Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to extends its political mission in Libya with a mandate to promote democracy during a meeting on Libya and the Middle East situation 12 March 2012 [AFP PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY / Getty]

The United States told the United Nations on Wednesday that the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week was self-defence and vowed to take additional action “as necessary” in the Middle East to protect US personnel and interests.

Iran retaliated on Wednesday for Soleimani’s death by firing missiles at military facilities housing US troops in Iraq. US President Donald Trump said no Americans were hurt, soothing fears that Soleimani’s death and the Iranian response could spark a wider conflict in the Middle East.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Kelly Craft said the United States also stands “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran, with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime.”

The killing of Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday was justified under Article 51 of the UN Charter, wrote Craft in the letter seen by Reuters, adding “the United States is prepared to take additional actions in the region as necessary to continue to protect US personnel and interests.”

Under Article 51, countries are required to “immediately report” to the 15-member Security Council any measures taken in exercising the right of self-defense. The United States used Article 51 to justify taking action in Syria against Daesh militants in 2014.

Read: Iran missile strikes a ‘slap in the face’ for US, says Khamenei

Craft said Soleimani’s death and US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Dec. 29 against an Iran-backed militia group were “in response to an escalating series of armed attacks in recent months by the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran-supported militias on US forces and interests in the Middle East.”

She said the aim was to deter Iran from conducting or supporting attacks and degrade its ability to conduct attacks.

Iran also justified its action under Article 51 of the UN Charter in a letter to the UN Security Council on Wednesday. The US letter to the UN Security Council arrived after Iran’s letter, diplomats said.

Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote that Tehran “does not seek escalation or war” after exercising its right to self-defence by taking a “measured and proportionate military response targeting an American airbase in Iraq.”

“The operation was precise and targeted military objectives thus leaving no collateral damage to civilians and civilian assets in the area,” Ravanchi wrote.

“Seriously warning about any further military adventurism against it, Iran declares that it is determined to continue to, vigorously and in accordance with applicable international law, defend its people, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity against any aggression,” he said.

Iran had full respect for the sovereignty of Iraq, he added.