Ayatollah Khamenei calls for direct attack on American interests as huge crowds gather for final day of Qassem Soleimani’s funeral and head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard vows to ‘set ablaze’ US allies in revenge
- Thousands of mourners converged on Qassem Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman where he will be buried
- Revolutionary guards chief Hossein Salami told the crowds that Iran would ‘set ablaze’ places linked to the US
- Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a direct retaliation rather than relying on Iranian proxies
- US officials said they are anticipating a ‘major’ attack of some type within the next day or two
Thousands of Iranians gathered in Qassem Soleimani’s home town today to mourn the general on the third and final day of his funeral as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fresh vow of revenge for his death.
A sea of mourners converged on Kerman today where Soleimani will be buried later, four days after he was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad.
Crowds chanted ‘death to Trump’ and ‘death to Israel’ as they wailed over Soleimani’s coffin amid angry exchanges of rhetoric between Washington and Tehran.
Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei, who yesterday wept in public over Soleimani’s coffin, has ordered his country’s forces to retaliate directly against US interests rather than relying on its proxies in the region.
Speaking to the crowds today, the leader of Iran’s revolutionary guards Hossein Salami vowed to ‘take revenge’ and ‘set ablaze’ places supported by the United States.
US forces are braced for a reprisal but their future in the Middle East was thrown into confusion yesterday when a letter confirming a withdrawal from Iraq was apparently circulated by mistake.
Donald Trump has vowed to retaliate if Iran strikes against US targets, despite lukewarm support from his allies including Israel which today declared its intention to ‘stay out of it’.
Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qassem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday
Mourners in Kerman dressed in black carried posters bearing the image of Soleimani
In Kerman, mourners dressed in black converged on Azadi Square where Soleimani’s coffin and that of his closest aide Hossein Pourjafari were on display.
Schoolgirls were heard shouting ‘death to Trump’ while crowds chanted ‘death to Israel’ when Hossein Salami swore revenge on Washington.
‘The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more powerful… now that he is dead,’ the revolutionary guards leader told the sea of mourners today. ‘The enemy killed him unjustly.’
One mourner, Hemmat Dehghan, said he had travelled from the southern city of Shiraz to ‘pay respects to the great commander of the holy defence’.
‘[Soleimani] was not only loved in Kerman, or Iran, but also the whole world,’ the 56-year-old war veteran said. ‘The security of the whole world, Muslims, Shiites, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and especially Iran, all owe it to him.’
Another mourner said Soleimi’s assassination ‘boils the blood of the Iranian people’.
‘He was seen as a great man who was ready to serve his people both then in the war and now. He must certainly be avenged,’ said Sara Khaksar, an 18-year-old student.
A sea of mourners converged on Kerman today where Soleimani will be buried later, four days after he was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad
Crowds chanted ‘death to Trump’ and ‘death to Israel’ as they waved pictures of Soleimani amid angry exchanges of rhetoric between Washington and Tehran
The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honor for a man viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard´s expeditionary Quds Force
Soleimani’s death already has pushed Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and a series of top Iranian officials have sworn revenge.
American forces are braced for retaliation and the US-led coalition against ISIS said in a statement that it was pausing its fight against the jihadists to shore up its own defences.
One official said the US anticipated a ‘major’ attack of some type within the next day or two.
US bases in the region are shoring up their defences and there are also fears that Iran will harass shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, which is critical to the world’s oil supply.
The global benchmark for crude oil rose above $70 a barrel on Monday for the first time in over three months, with jitters rising over the escalating military tensions.
One Iranian MP also warned of an attack on the White House while an adviser to Hassan Rouhani posted a list of Trump-owned properties in a hint of a possible reprisal.
Khamenei made a rare appearance at a meeting of the Iranian National Security Council on Monday to plot Iran’s response, The New York Times reported.
In a sign of Iran’s fury, the country plans to carry out reprisals itself rather than relying on its proxies in the region as it has frequently done in the past.
Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qasem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman today
Donald Trump has threatened a ‘disproportionate response’ targeting cultural sites, brushing off claims that such an action could be considered a war crime.
The president said America had lined up attacks on 52 targets ‘important to Iran and the Iranian culture’, representing the number of Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran after a raid in 1979.
Britain yesterday distanced itself from the plan to target cultural sites, pointing to international agreements on preserving cultural heritage.
Israel has also been lukewarm in its support for Trump, with Benjamin Netanyahu telling his cabinet ministers that Soleimani’s death was a matter for Washington and that Israel should ‘stay out of it’.
Yesterday Khamenei wept in public over Soleimani’s coffin at an outpouring of public grief in Tehran where as many as a million people turned out to mourn the general.
Authorities later brought his remains and those of the others killed in the strike to Iran’s holy city of Qom, turning out another massive crowd.
The scale of the crowds in Tehran mirrored those who turned out in 1989 for the funeral of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.
Many Iranians considered Soleimani, a decorated veteran of the eight-year war with Iraq, as a national hero, particularly for mobilising Shi’ite Muslim groups in Iraq to help crush the militant Sunni jihadists of ISIS.
But the US blames Soleimani for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death on Friday.
A group of Iranian mourners unfurl the national flag during Soleimani’s funeral procession in Kerman on Tuesday
Iran’s parliament on Tuesday voted to designate the US military and the Pentagon as ‘terrorist organizations’ in response to the killing of Soleimani (seen above)
Soleimani also led forces in Syria backing President Bashar Assad in a long war, and backed Iranian proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi 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.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said no decision had been made about withdrawing troops from Iraq.
The Pentagon’s plans were thrown into confusion when a letter from a US Marine general appeared to show that a withdrawal had been ordered, but it was later declared a mistake.
‘There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,’ Esper said.
Trump has also warned he will demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose ‘sanctions like they’ve never seen before’ if Baghdad goes through with expelling U.S. troops.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured praying over Soleimani’s coffin in Tehran yesterday), wants Iranian forces to openly and directly retaliate against US interests
Iranians set a US and Israeli flag on fire during Monday’s funeral procession for military commander Qasem Soleiman
The sanctions would make those on Iran look ‘tame’, Trump said, adding: ‘We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there… we’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.’
Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill designating the United States military and the Pentagon as ‘terrorist organizations.’
According to reports on social media, Iranian lawmakers chanted ‘Death to America’ while voting for passage of the bill.
On Sunday Iranian state TV said the country would no longer respect any of the nuclear limits in the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned last year but which European powers are desperately trying to preserve.
Under the deal, Tehran had pledged to reduce its nuclear capacities for several years, including by capping its enrichment of uranium at 3.67 percent, far below the more than 90 percent required for a nuclear weapon.
Iran has already overstepped some of the limits since Trump pulled out of the deal last year, which include restrictions on Iran’s supply of centrifuges and the level to which uranium can be enriched.
Huge crowds of mourners in the streets of Tehran yesterday where Iranians wailed over the death of the general
The flag-draped coffin of Qassem Soleimani is passed over the heads of mourners at his funeral in the centre of Tehran
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