Iranians Vow Revenge Against U.S. As Slain General Is Mourned In Nationwide Funeral
Vast crowds thronged the streets of Tehran on Monday to pay respects to Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force who was killed last week in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.
In a eulogy, Soleimani's daughter appeared to threaten U.S. forces in the region, and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wept for the fallen general.
Zeinab Soleimani, her voice broadcast to mourners by loudspeakers, warned that "the families of the American soldiers ... will spend their days waiting for the death of their children."
Cheers rose from the crowd, which Iranian media said was the largest such procession since the 1989 funeral of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had overthrown Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and founded Iran's Islamic Republic a decade before.
Khamenei, who followed Khomeini as supreme leader, prayed over the caskets of Soleimani and others killed in the U.S. attack on Friday in neighboring Iraq. During the traditional Muslim prayers for the dead, Khamenei, who was reportedly close to Soleimani, wept, according to The Associated Press.
Soleimani's successor, Esmail Ghaani, stood alongside Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
"God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly actions will be taken," Ghaani said in an interview with Iranian state television that aired Monday, according to AP.
"We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani's path as firmly as before with help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to get rid of America from the region," Ghaani said.
Ordinary Iranians wept, clutched photos of Soleimani and chanted "death to America."
Reporting from Tehran, NPR's Mary Louise Kelly says a woman attending the funeral on the edge of Revolution Square tugged at her sleeve, repeating the Farsi word for "revenge."
Kelly says people in the crowd carried red banners and the city was plastered with billboards of Soleimani declaring him a martyr.
The targeted killing of Soleimani, 62, widely seen as second in Iran only to Khamenei, was ordered by President Trump, who says the general was masterminding "imminent" attacks on U.S. diplomats and military targets.
The president has said that killing Soleimani was meant to prevent war, but Tehran has vowed to hit back, and experts on the region say more violence is inevitable.
In Lebanon, Iran-backed Hezbollah said U.S. military bases, warships and military personnel could come under attack in revenge for Soleimani's death. The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia has warned Americans in the Kingdom that there is a "heightened risk of missile and drone attacks," AP reports.
Soleimani's death has brought the Washington-Tehran relationship to a new low. Iran seized the moment to abandon most of the remaining limits on its nuclear weapons program that had been capped under a 2015 agreement between Iran and six other countries, led by the U.S.
The Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018. Beginning last summer, Tehran began to increase the level of uranium enrichment beyond the terms of the agreement. Thus far, Iran says it will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and permit inspectors in its production facilities. [Copyright 2020 NPR]