WEEPING amid wails from a crowd of hundreds of thousands of mourners, Iran’s supreme leader on Monday prayed over the remains of a top Iranian General killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad, an attack that’s drastically raised tensions between Tehran and Washington. The targeted killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qasem Soleimani already has seen his replacement vow to take revenge.
Additionally, Tehran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying while in Iraq, the parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil. The developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb, set off a proxy or military attack launched by Tehran against America and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place. Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab, directly threatened an attack on the US military in the Mid-East while speaking to a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Tehran that stretched as far as the eye could see. Iranian state TV put the crowd size at “millions,” though that number could not be verified.
“The families of the American soldiers in western Asia ... Will spend their days waiting for the death of their children,” she said to cheers. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself prayed over the caskets of Soleimani and others slain in the attack. Khamenei, who had a close relationship with Soleimani, wept at one point during the traditional Muslim prayers for the dead. The crowd wailed. Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani stood near Khamenei’s side, as did Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other top leaders in the Islamic Republic.
While Iran recently faced nationwide protests over Government-set gasoline prices that reportedly killed over 300 people, Soleimani’s mass processionals has seen politicians and leaders across the Islamic Republic’s political spectrum take part, temporarily silencing that anger. Ghaani made his own threat in an interview with Iranian state television aired on Monday. “God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly actions will be taken,” he said. Ghaani, a longtime Soleimani deputy, has now taken over as the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, an expeditionary arm of the paramilitary organisation answerable only to Khamenei. Ghaani has been sanctioned by the US since 2012 for his work funding its operations around the world, including its work with proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Those proxies likely will be involved in any operation targeting US interests in the Mideast or elsewhere in the world. Already, the US embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks.” In Lebanon, the leader of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah said Soleimani’s killing made US military bases, warships and service members across the region fair game for attacks. A former Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and others could be targeted should the US attack Iran. “We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani’s path as firmly as before with help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to get rid of America from the region,” Ghaani said.