Patriarch Sako likens Middle East to 'volcano on the verge of eruption'

During the Mass for Epiphany, a new appeal to the Chaldean primate for calm and "wisdom". But the United States and Iran foment tensions. Dozens of people died during the burial ceremony in Kerman. The US denies the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Tehran identifies 13 "revenge scenarios" to be implemented.


Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The "critical" situation that is enveloping Iraq - and the entire Middle East - following the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani is comparable to that of "a volcano on the verge of eruption” warns Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako.

The Cardinal led Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Baghdad, in front of a large crowd of faithful despite the climate of tension. The "shocking" escalation of the confrontation between the parties, decisions dictated "by emotion and impulse", stated the Cardinal in his homily, are the sign of a "lack of wisdom and understanding of responsibility".

The Chaldean primate confirmed his concerns for the future of the country and of the whole region following his appeal issued in the immediate aftermath of the killing, urging all parties involved to calm down and not to transform Iraq into a "battlefield".

Addressing world leaders, the cardinal re-launched the call for moderation to spare innocent lives, which would end up overwhelmed by the "fire" of violence and conflict. He also invited both Christians and Muslims to "pray" for politicians and heads of state and government to act "wisely" and "consider the consequences of their strategies thoroughly".

"The baptism of Jesus Christ - concluded the cardinal - reveals to the world the extent of God's love for the human being" created "to live a fraternal relationship of love and peace with each other".

Meanwhile, several deaths and injuries were registered (initial reports speak of 35 victims and 48 injured, but the toll is to be confirmed) during the burial ceremony of General Soleimani underway in Kerman, south-east Iran.

Iranian state television reported the violence although at the moment the factions that triggered the events are unknown. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the area  to bid farewell to the head of the Qods force, who died in a drone raid launched by the United States (with the collaboration of Israel according to some sources).

Tehran states it is considering 13 possible different "revenge scenarios" under discussion among the highest religious, political and military offices of the Islamic Republic. "Even the weakest response - reads a note - would be a nightmare scenario for Americans". At the same time, the leader of the Guardians of the Revolution (Pasdaran) threatens to "set fire" to any place or entity that supports the United States. " "If the U.S. troops do not leave our region voluntarily and upright, we will do something to carry their bodies horizontally out," Shamkhani said.

The words of Cardinal Sako therefore seem to be swept away by winds of war that are becoming increasingly impetuous, in an escalation that risks being devastating for the region and the whole world. The Iranian Parliament has voted in these hours for a resolution declaring the Pentagon and those who act in its name as "terrorists" and subject to Iranian sanctions.

Instead, the hypothesis heralded by tweets by US President Donald Trump of attacks on "52 Iranian cultural sites" seems to have been shot down. Defense Secretary Mark Esper points out that the United States "will respect the laws of armed conflict". After all, hitting cultural sites is in fact a war crime based on the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Sites of 1954. In Iran there are about twenty UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient ruins of Persepolis, the great mosque of Isfahan and the Golestan palace in Tehran.

Finally, the hypothesis that circulated yesterday for a few hours of a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq was denied. Military sources say that the letter re-issued yesterday by some media outlets was only an unsigned and poorly formulated draft. The text was intended to illustrate the increase in the level of movement of soldiers but does not imply a withdrawal and should not have been made public.

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