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If so, what would be the direct consequences?

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  • Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. Write a real answer instead which adheres to our quality standards. – Philipp Jan 4 '20 at 18:38
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    I haven't heard anybody claim that, what makes you think that or ask this question? – Relaxed Jan 4 '20 at 23:54
  • @relaxed he was meeting the prime minister of iraq. Iraqi nationals murdered in the assassination too – SeanJ Jan 5 '20 at 22:31
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    @SeanJ Yes but I still fail to see the connection with any potential diplomatic status. – Relaxed Jan 5 '20 at 22:32
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    @Sascha I certainly didn't think he was unwelcome, my point is precisely that you shouldn't conflate being invited to a country as a military/political personality and being granted diplomatic status. And if he was actually negotiating, he might have done it in a diplomatic capacity or be granted a status like a military attaché. But he could have been visiting without any diplomatic status, as military officers from friendly countries do all the time (e.g. within NATO). – Relaxed Jan 6 '20 at 19:30
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I see no reason to assume he had diplomatic status and I haven't heard anybody claim that he did.

Diplomatic status is usually relevant in less radical circumstances but even then there are no direct consequences. There is no overarching institutions to enforce diplomatic rules (or international law in general) and violations are simply followed by a tit-for-tat of symbolic measures from summoning an ambassador to formally breaking diplomatic relations. Obviously, the US doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran so that's moot. The closest is for Iran to summon the Swiss diplomats in charge of the US interest section at their embassy in Teheran, which they immediately did.

But in that case, an hypothetical diplomatic status is hardly relevant. At the end of the day, Suleimany's importance to Iran was well-known to both parties. The US targeted him and targeted him because of this. They are not denying it and are threatening further action. US officials claim the attack was justified and a way to prevent further escalation and all sorts of illegitimate behavior from Iran but they are not attempting to downplay its significance. Iran is bound to treat it as a deliberate attack and to react accordingly.

Iraq is also angry for many reasons. Suleimani not having diplomatic status would not make the attack OK and, conversely, him being officially considered a diplomat would make it only marginally worse from their perspective. Ultimately, they are in a very delicate situation and will have to decide exactly how far they are willing to go in confronting one of their two powerful patrons. For now, they have summoned the US ambassador for questioning.

Third countries could in principle care a little bit about violations of diplomatic immunity (for the sake of safeguarding it in principle and protecting their own diplomats) and make some noise about it. But here again, this concern would be dwarfed by all the other interests at stake: the risk of escalation, being dragged into a war or suffering some collateral damage, security of military and diplomatic personnel in the region, seeing similar attacks on their soil, etc.

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  • Regarding penultimate para: I guess you've missed the vote the Iraqi parliament took: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/49255/… – Fizz Jan 6 '20 at 0:05
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    @Fizz I heard of it but as you wrote yourself, the resolution is non-binding. Besides, many parties abstained from the vote and Abdul-Mahdi only leads a caretaker cabinet so it's unclear (to me at least) how effective that decision is. Until it's been notified to the US, it's not a diplomatic fact. – Relaxed Jan 6 '20 at 19:34
  • TLDR: there's now international law. The only law is whoever with the biggest stick around wants to be law today. – Oleg V. Volkov Jan 6 '20 at 20:28

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