The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has threatened retaliation for the U.S. assassination of a revered military figure, after Tehran vehemently denied it was plotting to kill an American ambassador as payback for the death of Lt. General Qasem Soleimani.
The drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3 that killed Soleimani, who was the head of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, sparked outrage in the Islamic republic as well as global fears of reprisals from the Islamic republic.
At the time, President Donald Trump justified the assassination by saying he was the “world’s number one terrorist” as well as “the mass murderer of American troops.”
However there were question marks over Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that the killing was in response to “imminent threats to American lives” especially after Trump officials rowed back on claims they were acting on a specific threat.
Citing intelligence officials, Politico reported on Monday that Tehran was planning to avenge the death by assassinating the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, who is close to the U.S. president.
Trump tweeted that any attack “will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude.” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Sa’eid Khatibzadeh dismissed the report as “biased and agenda-driven” and it was intended “an Iranophobic atmosphere,” Pars Today reported.
However IRGC head General Hossein Salami said it would not be Marks who would be targeted but those who were responsible for the drone attack that killed Soleimani.
“Mr. Trump! Our revenge for martyrdom of our great general is obvious, serious, and real,” his statement said on the IRCG website, according to Radio Free Europe.
“We will hit those who had direct and indirect roles. You should know that everybody who had a role in the event will be hit, and this is a serious message. We do prove everything in practice.” Newsweek has contacted the U.S. State Department for comment.
After January’s drone strike, which also killed two Iraqi militia officials, Iran launched a ballistic-missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
In the following months, Trump ramped up his rhetoric against Tehran, which faces economic pressure due to U.S. sanctions. In 2018, Trump pulled the U.S. out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Tehran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium but insists its nuclear program is not aimed at developing weapons.