Iran’s supreme leader named the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm Esmail Ghaani to replace its Quds force commander Friday after he was killed in a US strike in Baghdad.
“Following the martyrdom of the glorious general haj Qassem Soleimani, I name Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement posted on his official website.
Ghaani was described by Khamenei as one of the “most decorated commanders” of the Guards during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. He has been deputy commander of the force for some two decades.
“The orders for the [Quds] Force remain exactly as they were during the leadership of martyr Soleimani,” said the supreme leader.
“I call on the members of the force to be present and cooperate with General Ghaani and wish him divine prosperity, acceptance and guidance,” he added.
In 2017, Ghaani claimed that the US had tried and failed to destroy Iran, accusing Washington of creating al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terror groups— an oft-cited Iranian conspiracy theory.
He boasted that Iran had killed more Americans than the US had killed Iranians.
“America has suffered more losses from us than we have suffered losses from them,” he said, according to Iranian state media.
A furious Iran threatened to avenge the US strike that killed Soleimani, raising fears of a wider regional conflict between the foes.
Khamenei promised “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death, the biggest escalation yet in a feared proxy war between Iran and the US on Iraqi soil.
As the US embassy in Baghdad urged all American citizens to leave Iraq “immediately,” Trump tweeted a picture of the US flag without any comment.
Early Friday, a volley of missiles struck a convoy at Baghdad’s international airport belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi paramilitary force with close ties to Iran.
Hours later, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps announced Soleimani “was martyred in an attack by America.”
Security sources said that nine people died in the strike, which a US defense official told AFP had been carried out by a drone.
The Pentagon said “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
In Tehran on Friday tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against American “crimes,” an AFP correspondent reported.
Chanting “Death to America” and holding up posters of the slain commander, the demonstrators filled streets for several blocks in central Tehran after Friday prayers. Women and men, many of them elderly, took part in the procession, some holding up portraits of Khamenei.
“The axis of any evil is America, the motto of religion and the Quran is death to America,” they said in unison. “O leader of our revolution, condolences, condolences.”
State news agency IRNA said there were similar demonstrations in many other cities.
News of the death of Soleimani, one of Iran’s most popular public figures, also saw people hold impromptu gatherings in his central hometown of Kerman.