Iran warns that ‘freedom-seekers’ worldwide want to avenge Soleimani’s killing
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Iran warns that ‘freedom-seekers’ worldwide want to avenge Soleimani’s killing

New commander of IRGC’s expeditionary Quds Force says Tehran’s enemy ‘understands no language but force’

In this Nov. 5, 2016 photo, Gen. Esmail Ghaani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran. A new Iranian general has stepped out of the shadows to lead the country's expeditionary Quds Force, becoming responsible for Tehran's proxies across the Mideast as the Islamic Republic threatens the US with "harsh revenge" for killing its previous head, Qassem Soleimani. (Mohammad Ali Marizad/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
In this Nov. 5, 2016 photo, Gen. Esmail Ghaani speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran. A new Iranian general has stepped out of the shadows to lead the country's expeditionary Quds Force, becoming responsible for Tehran's proxies across the Mideast as the Islamic Republic threatens the US with "harsh revenge" for killing its previous head, Qassem Soleimani. (Mohammad Ali Marizad/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

The new commander of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force on Monday threatened that there are “freedom-seekers” all over the world who want to avenge the death of his predecessor, Qassem Soleimani, adding that Tehran’s enemies only understand the “language of force.”

“They hit General Soleimani in a cowardly act, but there are freedom-seekers across the world who want to revenge for him with God’s help, and God willing, we will hit his enemy chivalrously,” said Gen. Esmail Ghaani at a ceremony in Tehran.

“Our enemy understands no language but force and therefore, we should stand against them strongly,” he added, according to the Fars news agency.

The Quds Force is part of the 125,000-strong Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization that answers only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard oversees Iran’s ballistic missile program, has its naval forces shadow the US Navy in the Persian Gulf and includes an all-volunteer Basij force.

In this file photo taken on September 22, 2018 shows members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) marching during the annual military parade which marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Ghaani is also responsible for Tehran’s proxies across the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump ordered the drone strike in Iraq on January 3 that killed Soleimani. At the time, Trump said the Quds Force head was planning attacks against US troops in the region, but White House officials have since given different justifications for the killing, including one of deterrence.

On Saturday, CNN reported that Trump recently held a fundraising dinner for GOP donors where he gave a minute-by-minute account of the drone strike and said Soleimani was “saying bad things” about the US, which led to his decision to authorize the killing.

In response to the drone strike, Iran fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops. There were no reported casualties at the time but it has since been revealed that eight US troops suffered injuries.

Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami on Friday said that Iran’s missile attacks on a US base in Iraq in response to the killing of Soleimani were “just a slap.” Hatami also vowed to respond forcefully to US “adventurism.”

“I hope the enemies will not try to test the Iranian people’s resolve, because what has been done was just a slap and a warning,” Hatami said during a speech in a military academy, according to the Tehran Times.

He warned that Iran was “prepared to give a powerful response to any adventurism,” and said Tehran targeted the US military base “in self-defense.” These remarks were made as part of a phone conversation with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, the Tehran Times reported.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami speaks at the Conference on International Security in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The strike exacerbated tensions between the US and Iran, which have been steadily escalating since Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear accord. The agreement, negotiated under the US administration of Barack Obama, had imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

The US has since imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, including its vital oil and gas industry, pushing the country into an economic crisis that has ignited several waves of sporadic, leaderless protests.

Also on Friday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a sermon that America had been “cowardly” when it killed the most effective commander, Soleimani, in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Khamenei said the missile attack in response was a “blow to America’s image” as a superpower. In part of the sermon delivered in Arabic, he said the “real punishment” would be in forcing the US to withdraw from the Middle East.

A burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, in which Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed January 3, 2020. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

Trump later tweeted a sharp response to Khamenei: “The so-called ‘Supreme Leader’ of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe. Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!”

After the US drone strike on Soleimani, as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard braced for an American counterattack that never came, it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s international airport, killing all 176 passengers on board, mostly Iranians.

Authorities concealed their role in the tragedy for three days, initially blaming the crash on a technical problem. When it came, their admission of responsibility triggered days of street protests, which security forces dispersed with live ammunition and tear gas.

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