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Crying, Iran’s supreme leader prays over General Soleimani’s coffin


TEHRAN: Crying amid wails from a crowd of hundreds of thousands of mourning, Iran’s supreme leader prayed Monday for the remains of a high-level Iranian general killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad, an attack that has dramatically increased tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The selective assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani has already seen his promise to replace revenge. In addition, Tehran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the massacre while in Iraq, parliament has called for the expulsion of all US troops on Iraqi soil.

Events could bring Iran closer to the construction of an atomic bomb, provoke a military or proxy attack launched by Tehran against the United States and allow the Islamic State group to organize a return in Iraq, making the Middle East a much place more dangerous and unstable.

In addition to tensions, President Donald Trump threatened to demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose “sanctions like never before” if he continues to expel U.S. troops.

Soleimani’s daughter Zeinab directly threatened an attack on the U.S. military in the Middle East as she spoke to a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people in Tehran stretching as far as the eye could see. Iranian state television put the size of the crowd at “millions,” although that number could not be verified.

“The families of American soldiers in West Asia … they will spend their days waiting for the death of their children,” he told cheers.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, prayed for sole coffins and others killed in the attack. Khamenei, who had a close relationship with Soleimani, cried at one point during traditional Muslim prayers for the dead. The crowd lamented.

Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani, was close to Khamenei’s side, as was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other high-ranking leaders in the Islamic Republic. While Iran recently faced nationwide protests over government-established gasoline prices that reportedly killed more than 300 people, Soleimani’s mass processions have seen politicians and leaders from across the spectrum take part islamic Republic, temporarily silencing that anger.

Ghaani made his own threat in an interview with Iranian state television broadcast Monday. “God the Almighty has promised vengeance, and God is the chief avenger. Certainly action will be taken,” he said.

Ghaani, a longtime Soleimani MP, has now taken over as head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard, an expeditionary arm of the paramilitary organization that responds only to Khamenei. Ghaani has been sanctioned by the United States since 2012 for his work funding its operations around the world, including its work with representatives in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Those representatives will likely be involved in any operation targeting U.S. interests in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.

The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans “of the increased risk of missile and drone strikes.” In Lebanon, the leader of Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah said Soleimani’s assassination caused U.S. military bases, warships and military bases across the region to play fairly for the attacks. A former leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard suggested that the Israeli city of Haifa and others could be attacked in case the United States attacked Iran.

“We promise to continue on the path of the martyr Soleimani with the same firmness as before with God’s help, and in exchange for his martyrdom our goal is to get rid of the United States of the region,” Ghaani said.

The head of the Guard’s aerospace program, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, suggested that Iran’s response would not stop with a single attack.

“Shooting a couple of missiles, hitting a base or even killing Trump (Donald) Trump is not valuable enough to make up for the blood of martyr Soleimani,” Hajizadeh said on state television. “The only thing that can make up for his blood is the complete extraction of the United States from the region and the elimination of its evil from the oppressed people of the region.”

In the nuclear deal, Iranian state television quoted on Sunday a statement from the Rouhani administration saying that the country would not respect the nuclear deal’s restrictions on fuel enrichment, the size of its enriched uranium stockpile, and research and development activities.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson specifically urged Iran to “withdraw all measures” not in line with the 2015 agreement to prevent Tehran from pursuing your atomic weapons Program.

Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners on its nuclear programme. And he didn’t depart from previous promises that he wouldn’t look for a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement represents the clearest threat of nuclear proliferation that Iran has made since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reprinted sanctions last year. Moreover, regional tensions are rising, as Israel has long vowed not to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.

Iran did not detail what levels it would immediately reach in its program. Tehran has already broken some of the boundaries of the deal as part of a step-by-step pressure campaign to get sanctions relief. It has already increased its production, started enriching uranium at 5% and has restarted enrichment in an underground facility.

While it does not possess uranium enriched at 90% weapon grade levels, any progress reduces the estimated “rest time” of a year needed for it to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon if it so chooses.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations observation agency observing Iran’s programme, did not respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”

Soleimani’s assassination has intensified the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of back-and-forth attacks and threats that have put the Middle East more to the limit. Iran has promised “tough revenge,” while Trump has promised on Twitter that the U.S. will target 52 “VERY Fast AND VERY HARD” targets.

He doubled in that threat on Sunday, dismissing warnings that targeting cultural sites could be a war crime under international law.

“They are allowed to kill our people. They are allowed to torture and maim our people. They are allowed to use bombs on the road and fly our people. And we can’t touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump told reporters.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of mournings accompanied the coffin carrying Soleimani’s remains in the Iranian cities of Ahvaz and Mashhad. A similar procession was expected in Qom and Tehran on Monday. Tens of thousands have already filled the streets of the Iranian capital on Monday morning.

The mourners dressed in black banged their chests and carried posters with Soleimani’s portrait. Protesters also deployed red Shiite flags, which traditionally symbolize both the blood shed from someone unjustly killed and a call for revenge.

The processions mark the first time Iran honored a single man with a multi-city ceremony. Not even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic, received such a procession with his death in 1989. Soleimani on Monday will be in state at Tehran’s famous Musalla mosque as the revolutionary leader did before him.

He will be buried in his hometown of Kerman.

Times of India