Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani held talks with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, during a news conference in Tehran, Iran January 12, 2020.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, during a news conference in Tehran, Iran January 12, 2020. (Reuters)

Sunday, January 12

Qatari, Iranian leaders hold talks

Qatar and Iran agree that de-escalation is the "only solution" to regional tensions, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said on Sunday after meeting Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran. 

"This visit comes at a critical time in the region, and we agreed with the brothers and with His Excellency the president that the only solution to these crises is de-escalation from everyone and dialogue," he told a news conference. 

"Dialogue is the only solution" to resolve the crises, he said at a time of heightened US-Iranian tensions.

US does not expect more Iranian retaliatory attacks

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday the Trump administration foresees no more Iranian military attacks in retaliation for the US strike that killed the Islamic Republic's most powerful general. 

The Pentagon chief suggested that Iran's government is under internal threat following its downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner.

"You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government — a different regime," Esper said.

Friday, January 10

Trump says he believes Soleimani was targeting 'four embassies'

President Donald Trump said Friday that he thinks Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was planning attacks against four US embassies before he was killed last week.

"I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies," Trump said in an excerpt of an interview due to air later on Fox News. 

"Probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad."

Delegation to Iraq would not discuss troop withdrawal – US

Any delegation the United States would send to Iraq would not discuss the withdrawal of Us troops from the country, the US State Department said on Friday, saying the force presence there was "appropriate."

"There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Ortagus said the presence of US troops was crucial for the fight against the Daesh group and it would not discuss removing them.

"Any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership, not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East," said Ortagus. 

Prepare for troop withdrawal – Iraq PM asks US

Iraq's caretaker premier Adil Abdul Mahdi has asked the United States to send a delegation to Baghdad to begin preparing for a troop pullout, his office said on Friday.

In a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abdul Mahdi "requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement parliament's decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq."

Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed at bases across Iraq to support local troops preventing a resurgence of Daesh.

They make up the bulk of a broader US-led coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help combat militants. Their deployment was based on an executive-to-executive agreement, never ratified by Iraq's parliament.

But on Sunday, Iraq's parliament voted in favour of rescinding that invitation and ousting all foreign troops.

Many Iraqi lawmakers had been infuriated by a US drone strike on Baghdad a week ago that killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani and top Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, among others.

Days later, Iran fired a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases used by the US and other coalition troops, causing damage but no casualties, according to officials.

Top cleric slams US-Iran confrontation on Iraqi soil

Iraq's top cleric condemned the mutual US and Iranian attacks on Iraqi soil and warned of deteriorating security in the country and the wider region as a result of Washington's standoff with Tehran.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani said the attacks were a violation of sovereignty and that no foreign powers should be allowed to decide Iraq's fate.

Sistani delivered his message through a representative who spoke at Friday prayer in the holy city of Karbala.

"The use of over-the-top methods by different sides which possess power and influence ... will only entrench the crisis and prevent a solution," the representative said.

"The latest dangerous aggressive acts, which are repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, are a part of the deteriorating situation" in the region, he said.

EU to meet on Iran-US conflict

In Brussels, EU foreign ministers joined by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, were meeting on Friday to find ways to push the US and Iran away from open conflict.

"Iran's desire to prevent the crisis from escalating has bought us some time, it has the effect of cooling this down just a little," a senior EU diplomat said.

READ MORE: US House votes to limit Trump war powers against Iran

Source: TRTWorld and agencies