Iran has yet to deal a retaliatory counterblow to the US for the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has indicated.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will never forget the martyrdom of Hajj Qassem Soleimani and will definitely strike a reciprocal blow to the US,” Khamenei said, speaking to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Tuesday, his remarks quoted by Tasnim.
“The US crime in assassinating Gen. Soleimani and [Iraqi militia commander] Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis is an example of the US presence [on Iraqi soil]. They killed your guest in your home, and they blatantly confessed to this crime. This is not a trivial matter,” Khamenei added.
The supreme leader did not clarify what form Iran’s “reciprocal blow” would take. Days before the January 8 ballistic ‘Operation Myartyr Soleimani’ missile strikes on the Ayn al-Asad and Erbil military bases containing US troops, Khamenei vowed “harsh retaliation” against Washington over the commander’s killing, which other Iranian officials described as an “act of war.”
Last week, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Baharvand revealed that the US had sent a message to Iran via the Swiss ambassador in Tehran urging the country not to respond militarily to the assassination, with this request said to have been “rejected immediately.”
Earlier this month, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard concluded that Soleimani’s killing was “unlawful,” and a direct violation of the UN charter.
Iran issued an arrest warrant against US President Donald Trump and almost three dozen other persons accused of involvement in the Soleimani killing late last month, approving a request to put the US leader on Interpol’s red notice of wanted persons. An Interpol spokesperson said the agency would reject such a request if it was made, citing the prohibition to undertake “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”
Gen. Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds extraterritorial fighting force, was killed at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3 by a missile launched by a US Reaper drone. Iranian officials have since said Soleimani was in Baghdad to try to negotiate a reduction of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, secretary general of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia group and deputy chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Committee anti-Daesh (ISIS)* militia fighting force, was killed alongside Soleimani during the January 3 strike. In the days prior to the attack, the US accused Kata’ib Hezbollah fighters of targeting American servicemen in Iraq. The militia denied the claims, and Iraqi intelligence officials later said Daesh remnants may have been involved in those attacks. The US drone strike sparked anger in Baghdad, with parliament demanding an immediate US withdrawal from the country. Talks on the issue have since stretched out for months.
In his remarks Tuesday, Ayatollah Khamenei suggested that the US would like to see a weak Iraq. “They want a government like that of Paul Bremer – the American ruler of Iraq after Saddam [Hussein’s] downfall,” he said.
“Iran expects the decision of the Iraqi government, nation and parliament to expel the US to be pursued because the US presence causes insecurity,” Khamenei said.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.