What was left of Qasem Soleimani after his assassination by the United States was buried yesterday (Tuesday) in the city of Kerman, where he was born. His was the largest funeral in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Estimates of those involved in the procession range from several hundreds of thousands to millions. The streets were too narrow to accommodate everyone and some dozens of people were reported to be trampled to death, with a multitude of others being wounded. The leader of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said during the funeral that Iran would take revenge and “set ablaze” places supported by the United States, which drew shouts of “Death to Israel” from the throngs who were present. He added that as a “martyr”, Soleimani represents a greater threat to Iran’s enemies now than when he was alive and that Iran would revenge and burn “their important places”. His remarks reflected the demands of Supreme Leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran President Hassan Ruhani.
According to a report in the NY Times, Khamenei cried at the funeral service and directed that the response against the U.S. be measured and direct and not through its Islamic allies, as it usually does. The U.S. military was put on high alert and prepared for a revenge attack, in the belief that Iran would seek to retaliate against a senior military offier of the U.S., as part of “an eye for an eye” response. According to one Hebrew media source, Washington expected a “significant” attack within a day or two.
The response came in the middle of the night (between Tuesday and Wednesday), as Iran launched around 15 missiles towards two U.S. bases in Iraq. The attack, labeled “Marytr Soleimani”, that was said to be moderate, was launched from inside Iran at 01:30 a.m., the same time that Soleimani was killed last week. The missiles were tracked by U.S. radar and because they came from Iran, instead of from Iraq, there was sufficient time for the personnel on the base to take cover before the missiles hit. When informed of the attack and that no American lives were lost, President Trump said “All is well….We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.” The missile barrage was the most direct attack by Tehran against Washington since the takeover of the American Embassy in 1979. It could be that both sides will see the attack as a sufficient reprisal to the death of Soleimani, at least for the moment. But, that is not realistic.
Khamenei said that the attack was “a success” and that it was a “slap in the face” of the United States.
He said that “80 American terrorists” were killed in the attack and that the damage was “severe”, which included helicopters and military equipment. He called on the U.S. to withdraw its forces from the region and negated any possibility of discussions regarding a proposed, revised nuclear deal. In his words, “Soleimani’s killing shows that the Islamic revolution is still alive” and added that the U.S. is acting against the Hezbollah (i.e., the terrorist organization in Lebanon), whom he referred to as “the eyes and hands of Lebanon”, in order to help Israel. Tehran further reported that Iran has a “hundred additional targets”, if the U.S. chooses to respond to the attack, while a spokesman for Khamenei said that the attack on the American bases was the “weakest” in their arsenal.
Israel didn’t reply directly to the events of last night, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this morning,, in response to Iran’s threats against Israel, that whoever will attack Israel will suffer a “crushing blow”. He added that Israel stands behind the U.S. and supports the decision of President Trump to eliminate Qasem Soleimani.
In his speech to the nation this morning (U.S. time), President Trump said that Iran “appears to be standing down” following the missile strikes and, contrary to the claims of Khamenei, that the attack resulted in “no casualties”. However, the thought that Iran would “stand down” could be more “wishful thinking” than reality. According to one report, just hours after the burial of Soleimani, Khamenei stated: “Military action like this is not sufficient. What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region … Today Iran is well equipped … More people will join the movement and it will spread outside Iran … The US thought they defeated Iraq … Faith allows us to move mountains … Faith and honour are as important as the military … Solemani was brave and wise, he had a vision.” In an article in the NY Times, it was reported that Khamenei said to a group of imams and others: “What matters is that the presence of America, which is a source of corruption in this region, should come to an end …This region does not accept the US. presence.” The response of the crowd to which he was speaking was “Death to America!” “Death to Israel!”
These statements should be considered along with that of Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Soleimani as Commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. following the elimination of Soleimani, who threatened: “Everyone should be patient a little to see the bodies of American soldiers all over the Middle East.”
Anyone who is familiar with the mentality of this region, and with the events of the last two to three decades that were instigated by Iran and his now-deceased right-hand man, Qasem Soleimani, could not conclude that Iran would wind down its efforts to establish Shiite hegemony over the entire Middle East. Quite the opposite is the case.
It is, or should be, clear that the next confrontation between the U.S. and Iran is just a matter of time. And when it does happen, no one in this area of the world will be immune from the potential fallout. For Iran, a time of “standing down” means it can try to catch its breath from the sudden elimination of Soleimani, to regroup, to reevaluate its strategies and its future moves. We’ve seen it time and time again from Hamas, one of Iran’s terror proxies that Soleimani helped to establish and strengthen in Gaza, that is dedicated to the destruction and elimination of the State of Israel.
It should come as no surprise that Ismail Haniyeh, the senior political leader of the Hamas terrorist organization, was one of the speakers at Soleimani’s funeral, where he referred to him (at 2:36 minutes into the clip) as “the martyr of Jerusalem”. His speech followed immediately after that of Soleimani’s daughter, who continued the threats of retaliation.
And, in case it wasn’t reported on your local TV station, Iran raised a red flag over an ancient mosque, a flag that symbolizes a call for vengeance. According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, the meaning of the red flag is that Iran intends “to sink their enemies in a sea of blood.”
So, for the moment, setting the region ablaze will have to wait for a new match. But, we should keep in mind that Iran can switch hot and cold in a moment. So, we should always be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. (Psalm 5:9)
Destruction is in her midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets (Psalm 55:11)
Like flying birds so the LORD of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it. (Isaiah 31:5)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.