Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Crisis in Iran, fires in Australia and Manchester rapist jailed

11 January 2020

9:00 AM

11 January 2020

9:00 AM


Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, who had not been told in advance of America’s killing in Iraq of Qassem Soleimani, the leading Iranian military leader, said that America ‘had a right to exercise self-defence’. British troops were put on standby to be sent to the region, and the frigate Montrose and the destroyer Defender sent to the Strait of Hormuz. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, returning from holiday in Mustique, said: ‘Given the leading role he has played in actions that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel, we will not lament his death.’ England secured a 189-run victory over South Africa on the fifth day of the second Test in Cape Town, levelling the series 1-1.

Reynhard Sinaga, an Indonesian national, was convicted of 159 sex offences, including 136 rapes, against men in Manchester. A 19-year-old British woman was given a four-month suspended sentence for ‘public mischief’ after withdrawing a claim that she had been raped by 12 Israeli youths at a hotel in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, announced that she was pansexual and living with a press officer. Six Labour MPs said that they wanted to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as party leader: Sir Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips, Emily Thornberry, Clive Lewis and Rebecca Long Bailey, who said: ‘I thought Jeremy was one of the most honest, kind, principled politicians that I ever met…
I’d give him ten out of ten.’

Announcing the Budget for 11 March, Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, said, ‘There will be an infrastructure revolution’; but he told ministers to ‘root out waste’. Travelex, the foreign exchange company, turned off its computers in 30 counties after they were hacked by people demanding money. Henry Long, 18, from Mortimer, Berkshire, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper, 28, who died in August. Off-road vehicles have caused ‘appalling damage’ to a Bronze Age burial mound at Wentwood, Monmouthshire.


An American drone attack near Baghdad airport killed General Qassem Soleimani, 62, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He had been responsible for Iranian military and covert operations abroad, acting against America as well as against Isis. The drone also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and three other men from the Popular Mobilization Forces, which coordinate Shia militias in Iraq. The killing followed an attack on the United States embassy in Baghdad by a hostile crowd which in turn followed the American bombing of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq that killed about 25 people, itself a response to the killing of an American civilian contractor on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk on 28 December. At the General’s funeral in Kerman, his home town, at least 50 were killed in a stampede. Iran then launched a dozen missiles overnight at two US bases, in Irbil and in Anbar province. By coincidence, it seemed, a Ukrainian airliner crashed after takeoff from Tehran airport, with the loss of all 176 on board.

President Donald Trump of the United States said that Soleimani had been ‘plotting imminent and sinister attacks’ against Americans. Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said that ‘severe revenge awaits the criminals’ responsible for the killing. In response Mr Trump tweeted that America had identified 52 Iranian sites, some ‘at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture’. Earlier he had said the killing of Soleimani had been ‘to stop a war, not to start one’. The price of oil rose by more than 6 per cent.

More than 100 bush fires were burning in New South Wales and dozens more in the other states of Australia; 25 people have died since the bush fires began in September and at least 1,788 houses have been destroyed. Carlos Ghosn, the former chief executive of Nissan, fled Japan, where he was facing criminal charges, and flew in a private jet to Lebanon via Turkey; to escape from Japan, his 5ft 6in frame had reportedly been concealed in a flight case of the kind used to transport musical instruments. In Libya, forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar said they taken control of the city of Sirte. Juan Guaidó, who has been trying to replace Nicolás Maduro as the President of Venezuela, managed to get into parliament to be sworn in as Speaker. The Socialists formed a minority coalition government in Spain. Acute viral pneumonia afflicted Wuhan in central China. CSH

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