Iran on Friday vowed “severe revenge” in response to the U.S. airstrike which killed Tehran’s most powerful military commander, Qasem Soleimani, and dramatically sharpened tensions across the Middle East.
Soleimani was a towering figure in Iran’s power projection across the region, with close links to a network of paramilitary groups that stretches from Syria to Yemen. His death in the smoldering wreckage of a two-car convoy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, left U.S. outposts and personnel bracing for retaliatory attacks. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq warned its citizens to leave “immediately.”
“With his departure and with God’s power, his work and path will not cease and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood and the blood of the other martyrs of last night’s incident,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement.
The country’s defense minister, Amir Hatami, said that the night time strike by the “arrogant U.S.” would be met with a “crushing” response.
After a week in which frictions between the two countries had sparked a siege of Baghdad’s U.S. Embassy by Iran-backed paramilitaries, Thursday’s airstrike appeared to be aimed at crippling a force that has been the vanguard of Tehran’s decades-long effort to shape the region in its favor.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Louisa Loveluck