The leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization said on Sunday that the United States’ killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Iraq marked the start of a “new war” on the US in the Middle East.
He called on Shiite militias to attack US military assets throughout the Middle East — including suicide bombings — and predicted that the Americans will leave the region in “coffins,” taking Israel with them.
“This was not a separate assassination operation. This is the start of a new US war in the region,” Hassan Nasrallah said, according to a translation by the Lebanese Naharnet outlet.
Nasrallah said the January 3 airstrike will remain a “date separating two phases in the region… it is the start of a new phase and a new history, not just for Iran or Iraq but the whole region.”
He claimed that Israel had requested that the US kill Soleimani.
Early Friday, a volley of missiles hit Baghdad’s international airport, striking a convoy belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran. Just a few hours later, the Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani “was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning.”
“Israel wanted to assassinate the Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Syria, but it couldn’t or didn’t dare. It turned to the United States, which did it openly,” Nasrallah said.
“Israel saw Soleimani as the most dangerous man since the state was established, since he encircled the country with missiles,” he said.
The Lebanon-based Nasrallah praised Soleimani’s “martyrdom,” while blaming Washington for the “crime” of his death.
“This is not an ambiguous assassination… This is a blatant and clear crime. [President Donald] Trump ordered the US Army to carry out this crime,” he said.
Addressing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Nasrallah said: “I’m telling Pompeo today, look at the masses that came out to Soleimani’s funeral — this is the power of Iran. The goal now is to completely remove the American occupiers from Iraq. The Iraqi opposition won’t allow a single American soldier to remain in Iraq.”
Nasrallah promised that if Shiite militias attack US military assets in the Middle East, the Americans will eventually leave the region in humiliation — and will take Israel with them.
“We won’t allow our region, its holy places and its natural resources to be handed over to the Zionists,” the Hezbollah chief said.
He called on Shiite forces, the “axis of resistance,” to attack the US military, including with suicide bombers.
“If the resistance axis heads in this direction, the Americans will leave our region, humiliated, defeated and terrified. The suicide martyrs who forced the US out of the region before [still] remain,” he said, according to translator David Daoud.
“If our region’s peoples head in this direction, when the coffins of US soldiers and officers — they arrived vertically, and will return horizontally — Trump and his administration will know they lost the region, and will lose the  elections,” he threatened.
“[The] response to the blood of Soleimani… must be the expulsion of all US forces from the region. When we accomplish this goal, the liberation of Palestine will become imminent. When US forces leave the region, these Zionists will pack their bags and leave, and [we] might not need a battle with Israel,” he said.
“Trump and the fools with him don’t realize what they’ve done, but time will show them,” he said.
Nasrallah said that Soleimani had visited him a few weeks ago.
“I told him, ‘your face is in the American newspapers, they’re going to assassinate you.’ He said, ‘I wish.’”
“The dear and beloved brother Soleimani achieved what his heart desired. He died a martyr,” Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah is a close ally of Iran and considered part of a regional Iranian-backed alliance of proxy militias.
On Friday, Nasrallah mourned Iran’s Quds Force leader as a “master of resistance.”
Soleimani had close ties with Hezbollah and was heavily involved in its operations. In a rare interview late last year, Soleimani claimed he and Nasrallah escaped an Israeli assassination attempt when Israeli aircraft targeted them in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Soleimani has for years been seen as the architect of much of Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East, including attempts to gain a foothold in Syria and rocket attacks on Israel.
Soleimani had long stayed in the shadows while directing the Quds Force. But he rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of embattled dictator Bashar Assad.