Iran’s supreme leader said the US was “slapped” in the face after the Islamic Republic fired missiles at US troop bases in Iraq overnight Tuesday-Wednesday.
“We slapped them in the face last night,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state television, adding, “Military operations do not suffice. It is important to end the US corrupting presence in the region,” an apparent allusion to additional expected attacks by Iran and Iran-backed proxies against US forces in the region.
His remarks to a gathering in Tehran on Wednesday came days after he vowed “severe revenge” for a US drone strike that killed one of Iran’s top military commanders, Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, near Baghdad international airport last week.
Shortly after the Iranian missile strikes in Iraq, US President Donald Trump insisted “All is well!” on Twitter and promised to make a statement to the nation about the increasingly precarious situation with Iran. Trump offered no immediate indication of whether he would retaliate, and stayed out of sight Tuesday night as news of the missile strikes emerged. But he tweeted that an assessment of casualties and damages was under way. The initial outlook, he said, was “So far, so good!”
But while the US said initial assessments did not reveal American casualties, an Iranian regime-run media outlet made an uncorroborated claim Wednesday that more than 80 Americans were killed in the strike on the Al-Asad airbase in Iraq.
In his Wednesday comments, Khamenei called Soleimani a “great, brave warrior” and “dear friend to us,” and said he had spearheaded efforts to undermine US policy throughout the region.
“Americans are insisting on bringing corruption and destruction into our dear Iran. Talks of sitting down at the negotiating table is a preface to interventions, which must end. Regional nations do not accept the US presence and its meddling measures,” he said, according to a translation by the state-run IRNA news service.
“The US enmity toward Iran is not temporary; it’s inherent. It is a ‘gross mistake’ to think if we took a step back and [compromised], the US would stop its enmity,” he said.
Khamenei credited Soleimani with nixing the US administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which has not yet been published.
“The US plot for Palestine was to keep them at a weakened state, but martyr Soleimani helped Palestinians to stand strong and resist,” he said, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.
Similarly, “the US plots for Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon were all foiled by this great martyr. The US wanted for Iraq to be nothing more than dairy cattle, but Hajj Qassem helped [establish] this expansive front [against the US].”
He added: “For Lebanon, the US intends to deprive the country of Hezbollah, but Hezbollah has been becoming stronger by the day.”
Meanwhile, some Iranian state media quoted Khamenei praising Soleimani as a man of “wisdom and prudence,” in a possible hint that Tehran sought deescalation in the region.
“Gen. Soleimani was a man using logic in his actions, he was prudent not in the battlefields but in the area of politics,” Khamenei said.
“Some are brave but are not wise and prudent enough like Gen. Soleimani to show their braveness,” Khamenei said, according to the IRNA.
Also Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was quoted by Iranian media as threatening to cut off America’s “leg” in the region after it “cut off the arm” of the Islamic Republic by killing Soleimani.