Iranian Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei announced three days of nation-wide mourning following the death of top military leader Qassim Soleimani on Thursday, calling him a “eminent example of a person trained in Islam,” and threatening retribution for the U.S. attack.
“The loss of our dear General is bitter. The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals,” Khamenei wrote on Twitter.
Soleimani, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops over the last two decades, ran the Iranian special Quds Force, which the U.S. designated a terror group in 2007. He was killed alongside Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by an airstrike at Baghdad airport after President Trump warned Iran and its allies over the multi-day siege of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
In a statement confirming Soleimani’s death, the Pentagon said the Iranian “approved” the attacks on the embassy by Iranian-backed militias, which had scrawled “Soleimani is my leader” on the embassy walls during the attack. The U.S. also said the strike was “aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” with Democrats and other skeptics voicing concerns that the attack could lead to war.
The Ayatollah seemed to confirm an Iranian response, tweeting “a #SevereRevenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs’ blood last night.”
His efforts & path won’t be stopped by his martyrdom, by God’s Power, rather a #SevereRevenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs’ blood last night. Martyr Soleimani is an Intl figure of Resistance & all such people will seek revenge. /3
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 3, 2020
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi also reacted to the attack, saying Friday that it was “a dangerous escalation that will light the fuse of a destructive war in Iraq, the region, and the world.”
Mahdi, whose government has support from both the U.S. and Iran, called Soleimani and al-Muhandis as “huge symbols of the victory against terrorists.” With support from Soleimani and Iran, al-Muhandis had previously led the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella network of militias, in assisting Iraqi security forces retake Iraq from ISIS.