A year on, Hezbollah says Iran ‘doesn’t need help’ avenging its top general

Terror chief Nasrallah says Tehran will retaliate for US assassination of Soleimani ‘when it decides to’; says Hezbollah will preserve ‘atmosphere of tension’ in the region

Supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah terror group watch a speech by its leader Hassan Nasrallah, broadcast on a screen, in the Lebanese capital Beirut's southern suburbs, January 5, 2020. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
Illustrative: Supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah terror group watch a speech by its leader Hassan Nasrallah, broadcast on a screen, in the southern suburbs of Lebanese capital, Beirut, on January 5, 2020. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, in a speech Sunday marking a year since the US assassination of Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani and a pro-Iran Iraqi militia leader, said Iran “doesn’t need help” from its allies and will take revenge “when it decides so.”

Nasrallah said Tehran will not ask any other country or body to conduct a retaliatory strike on its behalf.

“Iran is a strong country and it will decide when and how to react,” Nasrallah said. “It doesn’t need to rely on others.”

However, he said Hezbollah will help preserve an “atmosphere of tension” in the region following the assassinations, in addition to the more recent November killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in a strike attributed to Israel. Iran has threatened to attack Israel since Fakhrizadeh’s killing.

Tensions have escalated in the Middle East in recent weeks as the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing approached.

People carry portraits of late Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport, in Baghdad on January 2, 2021, at the site of their killing. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

The US killed Soleimani and others in a January 3, 2020, strike near Baghdad International Airport. The action came after months of incidents raising tensions between the two countries and ultimately saw Iran retaliate with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq, causing scores of traumatic brain injuries to US soldiers.

Soleimani headed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, responsible for the Islamic Republic’s foreign operations and frequently shuttled between Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.

Iranian officials have issued a stream of threats against the US as the anniversary of Soleimani’s death approached, while accusing Trump of seeking a “pretext” for war. Top Iranian authorities, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had previously said that all those involved in Soleimani’s killing would face retribution.

US officials have expressed concern that Iran may be planning attacks against US-allied targets in neighboring Iraq or elsewhere in the region to coincide with the date. In recent weeks, the US military has taken a range of steps designed to deter Iran, while publicly emphasizing that it is not planning, and has not been instructed, to take unprovoked action against Iran.

US President Donald Trump has warned Iran against any attack, and the US has flown strategic bombers over the Persian Gulf in a show of force meant to deter Iran from attacking American or allied targets in the Middle East. A US nuclear submarine crossed the Strait of Hormuz on Monday.

Supporters of the Popular Mobilization Forces hold a posters of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, front, and General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds force during a protest marking a year since their killing in a US drone strike, in Tahrir Square, Iraq, January 3, 2021. (Khalid Moha/AP)

The Israeli military is preparing for the possibility of attacks, including missile and drone strikes, from the Iran-backed Iraqi militias and Houthi groups in Yemen, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

A top Iranian commander said Saturday that Khamenei had given an order for Tehran-backed terror groups to destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv if “any foolishness is committed against Iran,” warning that the Islamic Republic has been working for years on developing the capabilities of its proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Iran provides support to Hamas and more direct backing to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, all of which are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah recently suggested striking Haifa’s stores of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive fertilizer that fueled the deadly Beirut port blast in August that killed 193 people and wounded 6,500 others.

Further ratcheting up tensions, the UN nuclear watchdog said Friday that Iran intends to produce uranium enriched up to 20 percent purity, well beyond the threshold set by the 2015 Vienna accord and a short jump from weapons-grade material.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since 2018, when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Thousands of mourners held a mock funeral procession in Baghdad on Saturday evening to mark the anniversary of Soleimani’s killing. On Sunday, thousands of Iraqis converged on a landmark square in central Baghdad to commemorate Soleimani.

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