14:11 GMT +319 January 2020
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    Iran-US tensions hit their post-1979 peak last week following the US drone strike assassination of Qasem Soleimani, one of the Islamic Republic’s most senior and respected military commanders.

    The United States will regret it if they choose not to remove their forces from the Middle East, Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has warned.

    “Americans made a foolish move by assassinating Soleimani, and they must leave the region,” Velayati said, speaking at a ceremony commemorating Soleimani, with his remarks quoted by Fars News. “If they do not leave the region, they will face another Vietnam,” this time in the Middle East, the official added.

    “Experience has shown that they have always been defeated in the face of plans made by Iran and the Resistance Front,” Velayati noted, referring to the regional anti-US and anti-Israeli alliance between Iran, Syria and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif echoed Velayati’s sentiments, tweeting images of Soleimani’s funeral procession, and writing that the “end of malign US presence in West Asia has begun” in a tweet addressed to President Trump’s Twitter handle.

    “Have you EVER seen such a sea of humanity in your life, @realdonaldtrump? Do you still want to listen to the clowns advising you on our region? And do you still imagine you can break the will of this great nation and its people?” Zarif asked.

    Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was killed at Baghdad International Airport on Friday morning as the convoy he was traveling in was struck by a missile fired by a US Reaper drone. US officials justified the strike by claiming that Soleimani was plotting attacks against Americans and US interests.

    The attack on Soleimani was the culmination of a string of incidents which began on December 27, when a US military base in Kirkuk, Iraq was hit by rockets launched by unidentified forces, killing a US civilian contractor and injuring several US troops. The US accused Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group supported by Iran, of involvement, and attacked five of the militia’s positions across Iraq and Syria on December 29, killing 25 fighters. On New Year’s Eve, protesters attacked and tried to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad. On January 2, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon believed the militia may be planning new attacks, and indicated that the US may launch further preemptive “defensive strikes.” Kata’ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was riding in the same convoy as Soleimani when their convoy was hit by the US drone on Friday morning, and was also killed in the attack.

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