Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad Louis Raphael Sako called on Christians and Muslims in Iraq to pray for their leaders Monday as rumors of war run rampant after a U.S. military strike killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
In his homily, Sako described the situation in Iraq and the Middle East as a “volcano about to erupt” as he called on people around the world to pray and push to avoid further escalation of the ongoing tensions surrounding the situation, noting that innocent people will be the fuel for such “fire.”
Soleimani, who was responsible for the killing of 608 American soldiers in Iraq, arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, was killed Friday along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Donald Trump. An American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as well as other leaders have since pledged “revenge” and remained committed to that narrative Monday as millions gathered in Tehran to mourn Soleimani in a funeral procession.
“God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger,” said Esmail Ghaani, the Iranian general who will succeed Soleimani as head of the Quds Force, the foreign expeditionary arm of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, The New York Times reported.
“Certainly actions will be taken,” Ghaani added.
In an earlier statement Friday, Sako said many Iraqis were fearful of war after Soleimani’s death.
“Iraqis are still in shock of what happened last week. They have fears of having Iraq turned to a battleground, rather than being a sovereignty homeland, capable of protecting its citizens and wealth,” Sako said.
“In such critical and tense circumstances, it is wise to hold a round table meeting for all the parties concerned to have a reasonable and civilized dialogue that spares Iraq the unexpected consequences. We implore the Almighty God to grant Iraq and the region a peaceful, stable, secure and ‘normal life’ that we are longing for.”
“Iran, and many Middle Eastern countries look at Christianity as a Western influence, and especially as a U.S. influence. So, whenever they want to … make a statement to Western culture, they always arrest Christians or do worse things … beat them, torture them, kill them,” Ali said.
At Soleimani’s funeral Monday, his daughter, Zeinab Soleimani, said in a eulogy that the United States and Israel faced a “dark day,” The New York Times reported.
“You crazy Trump, the symbol of ignorance, the slave of Zionists, don’t think that the killing of my father will finish everything,” she said.
Lawmakers in Iraq voted 170-0 Sunday in favor of expelling United States troops from their country and the government is now considering new parameters for the American military there as they make arrangements for their departure.
American troops will be limited to “training and advising” Iraqi forces, but will not be allowed to move off their bases or to fly in Iraqi airspace while plans are being made for their departure, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, the military spokesman for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, told the Times.