Sunday 19 January 2020

Iran Guard leader threatens to ‘set ablaze’ US-backed places

Hossein Salami pledged retaliation for the death of General Qassem Soleimani.

Mourners gather to pay their respects to General Qassem Soleimani in Kerman, Iran (Iran Press via AP)
Mourners gather to pay their respects to General Qassem Soleimani in Kerman, Iran (Iran Press via AP)

By Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell, AP

The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States over the killing of General Qassem Soleimani last week.

Hossein Salami made the pledge before a crowd of thousands gathered in a central square in the slain general’s hometown of Kerman.

He said as a martyr, Soleimani represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies- including longtime regional foe Israel.

“We will take revenge. We will set ablaze where they like,” Salami said, drawing the cries of “death to Israel”.

His vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials — from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to others — as well as supporters across the Islamic Republic, demanding retaliation against America for a slaying that has drastically raised tensions across the Middle East.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, front row, fourth from left, leads a prayer over the coffins of Gen. Soleimani and his comrades (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Mourners in Kerman dressed in black and carried posters bearing the image of Soleimani, a man whose slaying prompted Iran’s supreme leader to weep over his casket.

Although there was no independent estimate, aerial footage and Associated Press journalists suggested a turnout of at least 1 million people.

Authorities later brought Soleimani’s remains and those of the others killed in the airstrike to Iran’s holy city of Qom, where another massive crowd turned out.

The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honour for a man viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force.

The US blames him for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death on Friday in a drone strike near Baghdad’s airport.

Soleimani also led forces in Syria backing President Bashar Assad in a long war, and he also served as the point man for Iranian proxies in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

It is believed that more than a million people turned out for the funeral service in Tehran (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

His slaying has already pushed Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as his successor and others vow to take revenge.

In Baghdad, the parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil, something analysts fear could allow Islamic State militants to mount a comeback.

Iran’s parliament, meanwhile, passed an urgent bill declaring the US military’s command at the Pentagon in Washington and those acting on its behalf “terrorists” subject to Iranian sanctions.

The measure appears to mirror a decision by President Donald Trump in April to declare the Revolutionary Guard a “terrorist organisation”.

The decision by Iran’s parliament, done by a special procedure to speed the bill to law, comes as officials across the country threaten to retaliate for Soleimani’s killing.

PA Media

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