A US threat to kill the successor to Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani is a sign of “America’s targeted and governmental terrorism”, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on January 24.
Soleimani, widely regarded as Iran’s second most powerful official, was assassinated with a drone missile strike at Baghdad airport on the orders of US President Donald Trump on January 3. The US claimed that over two decades he had been responsible for numerous operations involving Iran-backed militia that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers and some British troops and that he was planning more attacks on US troops and assets. On January 23, the US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, was quoted by Asharq al-Awsat newspaper as saying Soleimani’s successor as commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force for Iranian military operations abroad, Esmail Qaani, would suffer the same fate as his predecessor if he followed a similar path by killing Americans.
He added in a Davos, Switzerland interview with the publication that Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response”.
“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”
Many experts say Trump breached international law with the Soleimani assassination and question whether the present US administration has much respect for international law.
After his appointment, Qaani, as reported by Reuters, said that he would “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and that the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, Iran’s long-stated policy.
On January 20, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported Qaani, as telling a Tehran audience: "They hit General Soleimani in a cowardly act, but there are freedom-seekers across the world who want to revenge for him with God's help, and God willing, we will hit his enemy chivalrously. Our enemy understands no language but force and therefore we should stand against them strongly."
An Iranian MP, meanwhile, has said the people of Soleimani’s home province Kerman are willing to pay a $3mn bounty to anyone who kills Trump.
January 23 also saw the IRGC’s aerospace division commander say that four US military bases in the Middle East were used to deploy aircraft and drones involved in the attack that killed Soleimani, including two bases in Iraq and another in Kuwait.
“Most of the drones” had taken off from Kuwait, Amirali Hajizadeh told Iranian state television. He did not say if Iran believed a drone from Kuwait was ultimately responsible for the hit on Soleimani.
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