Amid months of anti-government protests, Iran said that it will target US civilian and military officials to avenge the killing of the Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. The commander was targeted by a US drone strike near Baghdad’s airport on January 3, 2020.
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs promised to hold accountable any country or individual involved in Soleimani’s killing, including the UK, Germany and Israel. Some in Iran have called for Israel’s destruction to avenge Soleimani’s killing.
Iran recently published the photos of 51 Americans it claims were involved in the drone strike that killed Soleimani, including several current and former senior US officials as well as US soldiers. Tehran referred to some on the list as “wanted murderers,” and highlighted the involvement of former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, former White House official Victoria Coates, and the names of others in the killing of Soleimani.
Iraq’s pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) planned mass demonstrations on the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing in Baghdad, Basra and even in the Sunni-dominated Saladin Governorate. According to reports, Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for former US President Donald Trump as he had ordered Soleimani’s killing on Iraqi soil.
Washington insists that Soleimani was behind the killing of many Americans in Iraq. But Iran claims that Soleimani defeated the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq. Commemorating the third anniversary of his death, Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi said that Soleimani defeated not only “US hegemony” in the Middle East but also eliminated ISIS. Soleimani’s successor Esmail Qaani indirectly threatened the United States by saying that his death could be avenged on US soil.
According to the Chairman of the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the Muslim youth will never give up on avenging Soleimani’s death.
Bagheri added that the Soleimani file remains open until those who killed him are punished, and that Iran and its PMF militia have the right to take action in this regard. Zeinab Soleimani, the daughter of Soleimani, said that revenge would not just be retaliation but also involve the continuation of her father’s mission.
How soon Iran will avenge Soleimani’s killing is still unknown. The head of the IRGC Hossein Salami has promised that Iran will never give up. Iran insists that revenge will happen sooner or later, but it also seems more set on discouraging the United States’ hope that by supporting the Iranian protestors, it can accelerate regime change in Iran.
A great deal will also depend on how quickly Iran’s relations with the United States as well as with other Western powers deteriorate. The West is condemning Iran’s anti-protest crackdowns and its refusal to contain its nuclear program. In response, this year, pro-government protestors gathered in front of Western embassies in Tehran, including the UK and German embassies, and hung large placards vowing to take revenge for Soleimani’s killing.
According to Salami, the United States should know that the desire for revenge has deep roots in Iran’s new generation who are willing to embrace martyrdom. According to IRGC Air Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the PMF has grown significantly stronger over the past three years since Soleimani’s killing, and it will raise the flag of revenge high until all US forces leave the Middle East.
Iranian defiance is concerning and signals Tehran’s willingness to potentially raise the stakes by threatening US interests and regional security by unleashing its proxies, particularly to deflect attention from its ongoing national uprising.