. . . as thou­sands mourn death of gen­eral

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - News - AP COR­RE­SPON­DENT IN TEHRAN

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.

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