The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations on Friday described the killing of one of his country’s top generals as an act of war.
The death of Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in a Baghdad drone strike was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiraling tensions between Iran and the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s insistence he did not want war.
But, speaking to CNN late Friday night, Iranian ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said: “In fact [it] was an act of war on the part of the United States and against [the] Iranian people.”
“Last night [the US] started a military war by assassinating by an act of terror against one of our top generals. So what else can be expected of Iran to do? We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act,” he said.
“We can’t just close our eyes to what happened last night. Definitely there will be revenge, a harsh revenge.”
“The response for a military action is a military action. By whom, by when, where? That is for the future to witness,” he ended the interview by stating.
The remarks follow Trump, speaking on Friday night to Evangelical supporters in Miami, saying that Soleimani was planning “a very major attack” and that he had been preparing multiple “attacks against Americans.”
Soleimani — long seen as a deadly adversary by the US and its allies — was one of the most important power-brokers across the region, setting Iran’s political and military agenda in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Meanwhile, the leader of Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah’s political bloc in Lebanon’s parliament said Saturday that Soleimani’s killing would be met with a decisive response by the “axis of resistance,” Reuters reported, citing the country’s al-Mayadeen TV.
Mohamed Raad said Washington had “made a mistake” in attacking Soleimani and would soon come to realize it.
Also on Saturday Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the US should not “abuse force” and instead seek solutions through dialogue.
In a call with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Wang said “the dangerous US military operation violates the basic norms of international relations and will aggravate regional tensions and turbulence,” according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.
“China opposes the use of force in international relations. There is no way out for military means, nor for extreme pressure,” Wang said.
China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is a key partner of Tehran and major buyer of Iranian oil.
Iran, China and Russia held joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman last week and the Iranian foreign minister visited Beijing earlier this week.
China and Russia are also parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in May last year.
The deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards claimed Friday that Washington asked Tehran to respond “in proportion” after US forces killed Soleimani.
After the attack, the Americans “resorted to diplomatic measures… on Friday morning,” Rear-Admiral Ali Fadavi told state television.
They “even said that if you want to get revenge, get revenge in proportion to what we did,” he said, quoted on the broadcaster’s website.
Fadavi did not say how Iran received the message from its enemy, even though Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations for four decades.
Zarif said in separate television interview on Friday night that “Switzerland’s envoy transmitted a foolish message from the Americans this morning.”
The Swiss official “was summoned in the evening and received a decisive response in writing… to the Americans’ audacious letter,” the Iranian foreign minister added.
Switzerland’s embassy in Tehran has represented US interests in the Islamic republic since ties were cut in 1980.
But Fadavi said the United States was not in a position “to determine” Iran’s response.
“The Americans must await severe revenge. This revenge will not be limited to Iran,” he said.
“The ‘Resistance Front,’ with a vast geography, is ready to materialize this revenge,” he added, referring to Iran’s allies across the Middle East.