Photo: Reuters

Iran vows revenge on Soleimani anniversary

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi pledged to exact vengeance if former United States President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State are not prosecuted for the assassination of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.

By Erin Viner

“If Trump and Pompeo are not tried in a fair court for the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani, Muslims will take our martyr’s revenge,” Raisi said in a speech at a memorial ceremony to mark the 2nd anniversary of Soleimani’s death.

Iran and its proxies in Iraq and other countries have been holding events to honor the late leader of the Quds Force, which is the IRGC’s overseas arm. He was killed in Iraq in a drone strike on 3 January 2020, ordered by then-President Trump.

“The aggressor, murderer and main culprit – the then president of the United States – must be tried and judged under the (Islamic) law of retribution, and God’s ruling must be carried out against him,” Raisi demanded.

Under Iran’s observance of Islamic Sharia law, convicted killers can be executed unless victims’ families agree to accept the payment of “blood money” in compensation for their losses.

The Republican leader and Washington’s former top diplomat are only 2 of 125 other suspects Tehran has accused of involvement in Soleimani’s death. Iranian Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri told state television that judicial officials in the Islamic Republic have been in contact with 9 nations to communicate the identities of the additional suspects, who he said include 74 Americans.

“The criminal former president is at the top of the list,” Montazeri underscored.

Iran called on the United Nations Security Council last Sunday to hold both the US and Israel – which Tehran also blamed for Soleimani’s assassination – to account, according to Iranian media reports.

Washington informed the UN days after Soleimani’s death that his killing was self-defense. Then-US Attorney General William Barr said Trump held the indisputable authority to order the death of Soleimani as a “legitimate military target.”

In Iraq, hundreds of supporters of Iran-backed proxies militia groups gathered at the Baghdad International Airport, where Suleimani was killed along with Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the US attack on his convoy. targeted in the drone strike. They chanted slogans, including calls for ‘Death of the US, United Kingdom and Israel.’

US officials have warned in recent weeks they expect a surge in attacks against American troops in Iraq and Syria, related to the 2nd anniversary of Soleimani’s death.

A Katyusha rocket hit an Iraqi military base hosting US forces near the airport earlier today. Iraqi security and military sources said no one was hurt during the incident, and that a launcher still loaded with one rocket was located in al-Jihad District in the western sector of the capitol.

The attack is the second one this week targeting the base, following the foiling of strikes by 2 armed drones on Monday.

Video provided by an official of the US-led international military coalition showed clearly visible writing on the wing of one drone reading “Soleimani’s revenge.” According to the official, the base defense system shot down both “fixed-wing suicide drones”.. “without incident,” in what was “a dangerous attack on a civilian airport.”

The attacks coincide with assertions from IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh at another memorial service for Soleimani that the US “will not be given an opportunity for peace.”

“The axis of resistance, those who love and seek blood vengeance for General Soleimani, will continue this path and if the Americans want to limit their expenses, they must themselves pack up and leave the region,” he said, while vowing to execute further attacks on US forces in the region.

Meanwhile in related developments, Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebel movement seized a United Arab Emirates-flagged cargo vessel in what may have been an act of vengeance linked to Soleimani. Iran’s arch-enemy Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition batting the Houthis, disputed the rebels claim that the ship had been engaged in “hostile acts,” and maintained it was transporting hospital equipment.

In Israel, the Jerusalem Post newspaper announced that its website had been hacked, after an illustration of a bullet-shaped object shooting out of a distinctive red ring worn by Soleimani appeared to be Soleimani appeared on Monday instead of the main news page. The English-language daily tweeted that the attack constituted “a direct threat (to) Israel.”