. . . as thousands mourn death of general
THOUSANDS of mourners accompanied a casket carrying the remains of the slain General Qassem Soleimani through two major Iranian cities yesterday while the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks”.
Iran vowed to take an evengreater step away from its unravelling nuclear deal with world powers as a response to Soleimani’s slaying.
Many saw Soleimani as a pillar of the Islamic Republic at a moment when it is beset by US sanctions and recent anti-government protests.
Retaliation for Soleimani could potentially come through the proxy forces which he oversaw as the head of an elite unit within the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
Late Saturday, a series of rockets launched in Baghdad fell inside or near the Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the US Embassy.
After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, authorities flew the general’s body to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. An honour guard stood by early yesterday as mourners carried the flag-draped coffins of Soleimani and other Guard members off the tarmac.
The caskets then moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani’s portrait. Demonstrators
also carried red Shiite flags, which traditionally both symbolise the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and call for their deaths to avenged.
Officials brought Soleimani’s body to Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the bloody, 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran in which the general slowly grew to prominence.
After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds, or Jersualem Force, an expeditionary force that works with Iranian proxy forces in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Authorities then took Soleimani’s body to Mashhad late yesterday. His remains will go to Tehran and Qom today for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial tomorrow.
This marks the first time Iran honored a single man with a multicity ceremony. Not even Khomeini received such a processional with his death in 1989. Soleimani will lie in state at Tehran’s famed Musalla mosque toay as the revolutionary leader did before him.
Though it’s unclear how or when Iran may respond, any retaliation was likely to come after three days of mourning declared in both Iran and Iraq.
Iranian officials planned to meet last night to discuss taking a fifth step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, one that could be even greater than planned, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists.
“In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected,” Mousavi said.
Iran previously has broken limits of its enrichment, its stockpiles and its centrifuges, as well as restarted enrichment at an underground facility.
After the airstrike early Friday, the Us-led coalition has scaled back operations and boosted “security and defensive measures” at bases hosting coalition forces in Iraq.
The Iranian parliament yesterday opened with lawmakers in unison chanting: “Death to America!” Parliament speaker Ali Larijani compared Soleimani’s killing to the 1953 Cia-backed coup that cemented the shah’s power and to the US Navy’s shootdown of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 that killed 290 people. He also described American officials as following “the law of the jungle”.
“Mr Trump! This is the voice of Iranian nation. Listen!” Larijani said as lawmakers chanted.