TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s judiciary chief warned Friday that Qassem Soleimani’s killers will “not be safe on Earth,” as the Islamic Republic began marking the first anniversary of the top general’s assassination in a US strike.
Ebrahim Raisi, speaking at an event in Tehran to pay tribute to Soleimani, said not even US President Donald Trump, who ordered the strike, was “immune from justice.”
Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020, ratcheting up tensions between decades-old enemies the United States and Iran.
“They will witness severe revenge. What has come so far has only been glimpses” of it, Raisi told the gathering at Tehran University.
“Do not presume that someone, as the president of America, who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out. Never,” he said. “Those who had a role in this assassination and crime will not be safe on Earth.”
The event was attended by Iranian officials, and speakers included representatives from allied regional countries and forces, namely Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
A separate event is expected to be held in the coming days in Kerman, Soleimani’s hometown where he is buried.
Soleimani headed the Quds force, the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Top Iranian authorities, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had previously said that all those involved in his killing would face retribution.
Days after Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing US and other coalition troops, with Trump refraining from any further military response.
The Iranian leadership has called the strikes a “slap” and vowed that “severe revenge” awaits.
US officials have expressed concern that Iran may be planning attacks against US-allied targets in neighboring Iraq or elsewhere in the region in the coming days. Trump has warned Iran against any such 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.
CNN on Friday reported disagreements within the Pentagon as to the threat level from Iran. Some officials said the threat was the highest it’s been since Soleimani’s killing, with US forces in the region in real danger of attack, while others insisted this was an exaggeration.
“We do see several planning efforts underway and if even some of them are true and they execute they could kill several Americans,” one military official said.
Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani, warned during Friday’s event that revenge may come from anywhere.
“It’s even possible that there are people inside your home [the United States] that will respond to your crime,” he said.
And the top commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami, said his country was fully prepared to respond to any US military pressure.
“Today, we have no problem, concern or apprehension toward encountering any powers. We will give our final words to our enemies on the battlefield,” Salami said, without mentioning the US directly.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since 2018, when Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.
The two sides have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, especially following the killing of Soleimani.