Khamenei renews revenge vow as Soleimani death anniversary nears

Iranian supreme leader meets family of top General Qassem Soleimani some two weeks before first anniversary of his assassination by the US.

Khamenei: 'Those who ordered the murder of General Soleimani as well as those who carried this out should be punished' [Iranian supreme leader's website/AFP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has renewed his promise of revenge in response to the United States’ assassination of Qassem Soleimani during a meeting with the top general’s family some two weeks before the first anniversary of his killing.

Khamenei said on Wednesday the US will pay for the President Donald Trump-ordered drone strike that killed the commander near the Baghdad airport on January 3.

According to the supreme leader, the millions of people who marched across Iran following Soleimani’s assassination delivered a “harsh slap” in the face of the US.

Dozens of missiles launched by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on two bases in Iraq housing US troops – that caused no fatalities – after Soleimani was buried in his hometown of Kerman were another slap, Khamenei said.

“However, the harsher slap includes overcoming the empty hegemony of arrogance,” he said during the meeting in Tehran, which was also attended by organisers of commemorations for the first anniversary of Soleimani’s assassination.

But Khamenei said such responses are separate from retaliation on those who ordered the killing and those who carried it out.

“They must know that whenever possible, at the appropriate time, they must face revenge,” he said.

Khamenei had vowed “harsh revenge” in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of IRGC. In October, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran held the entire US government, not just Trump, responsible for the killing.

Last week, the US Central Command said two B-52 strategic bombers had flown from their base in Louisiana to the Middle East to deter potential Iranian retaliation ahead of the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing.

An Iranian military official promised a “crushing and fiery response” if US bombers enter Iran’s airspace.

This came weeks after top nuclear and military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in a sophisticated operation near Tehran. There has been no claim of responsibility but Iran believes Israel and its intelligence agency, Mossad, were behind the attack.

Organisers of events to mark the first anniversary of Soleimani’s killing were also in attendance on Wednesday [Official Khamenei Website/Handout via Reuters]

In her first English-language television interview that aired on Tuesday, Zeinab Soleimani, the general’s daughter, said his death was “only the beginning” of his legacy.

“After killing my father, America thought that everything will be stopped because they killed general Soleimani, the power of the Middle East,” she told Russia Today.

“But they are so wrong. They didn’t see the anger in the eyes of Iranian people. They didn’t see their tears. They didn’t see their sadness. But General Soleimani has a military from the people and they will take revenge from Trump.”

She also said US President-elect Joe Biden is no different from Trump since he supported Soleimani’s elimination.

‘Do not trust enemies’

In his Wednesday remarks, Khamenei warned against trusting “enemies”, saying authorities must not look to others to abide by their commitments in order to advance the country and build its future.

“Do not forget enmities. You saw what Trump and Obama’s America did to you. It is not just Trump,” Khamenei said in reference to former US President Barack Obama, whose administration in 2015 co-signed a nuclear deal with Iran and world powers.

Trump unilaterally withdrew from that accord in May 2018 and reimposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran that have only intensified since.

Khamenei said Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories of the nuclear deal, also did not implement their commitments and hurt Iran, so they must not be trusted.

He also said authorities should set aside differences and work to unite the country, and they should strive to “nullify sanctions” rather than lift them.

“Although I am not saying we should not look to lift sanctions. Yes, if we can really lift sanctions it must not be delayed for even an hour, but it has been delayed for four years so far.”

Source: Al Jazeera