Thousands of mourners chanting “America is the Great Satan” marched in a funeral procession Saturday through Baghdad for Iran’s top terror chief, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike.
By World Israel News and AP
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds force and mastermind of its regional terror strategy who was killed in an airstrike on Friday in Iraq, was mourned in Baghdad on Saturday.
The demonstration occurred not far from the site where Soleimani met is demise at the hands of an American drone. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior Iraqi militia commander was killed in the same strike along with other Iraqi military figures.
Among other slogans, the protesters in Baghdad on Saturday chanted, “Death to Israel, death to America.”
Mourners such as Mohammed Fadl claimed the funeral was an expression of loyalty to the slain leaders, who oversaw ruthless terror proxies throughout the region that threaten sovereign nations and brutalize local populations.
Iran has vowed harsh retaliation, raising fears of an all-out war, an outcome which U.S. President Donald Trump says he ordered the strike to prevent.
Soleimani was plotting a series of attacks that endangered American troops and officials, according to reports from the Trump administration.
An official with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq said it has scaled back operations and boosted “security and defensive measures” at bases hosting coalition forces in the country. The official spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations.
Washington has dispatched another 3,000 troops to neighboring Kuwait.
Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional policy of arming and funding terror proxies and other militias in Israel, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
He also oversaw attacks on U.S. troops and American allies going back to the 2003 war in Iraq.
Two helicopters hovered over the procession in Baghdad on Saturday, which was attended by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and leaders of Iran-backed militias. The procession later made its way to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, in central Iraq.
The gates to Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, were closed.
Iraq, which is closely allied with both Washington and Tehran, condemned the airstrike that killed Soleimani and called it an attack on its national sovereignty. Parliament is to meet for an emergency session on Sunday, and the government has come under mounting pressure to expel the 5,200 American troops based in the country, who are there to help prevent a resurgence of the ISIS terror group.
Hadi al-Amiri, who heads a large parliamentary bloc and is expected to replace al-Muhandis as deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed militias, was among those paying their final respects.
“Rest assured,” he said before al-Muhandis’ coffin in a video circulated on social media. “The price of your pure blood will be the exit of U.S. forces from Iraq forever.”
The U.S. has ordered all citizens to leave Iraq and closed its embassy in Baghdad, where Iran-backed terrorists, militiamen and their supporters staged two days of violent riots earlier this week in which they breached the compound.
Britain and France also warned their citizens to avoid or strictly limit travel in Iraq.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have steadily intensified since Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal due to Iran’s ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
After withdrawing from the nuclear deal, Trump restored crippling economic sanctions.
In response to the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran has openly abandoned commitments under the deal and embarked on a wave of increasingly provocative attacks in the region, including the sabotage of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure in September that temporarily halved its production.
Iran denied involvement in those attacks, but admitted to shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone in June that it said had strayed into its airspace.
On Saturday, billboards appeared on major streets in Iran showing Soleimani and carrying the warning from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that “harsh revenge” awaits the US.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Soleimani’s home in Tehran to express his condolences.
“The Americans did not realize what a great mistake they made,” Rouhani said. “They will see the effects of this criminal act, not only today but for years to come.”
On the streets of Tehran, many said they mourned Soleimani and some demanded revenge.
“I don’t think there will be a war, but we must get his revenge,” said Hojjat Sanieefar. America “can’t hit and run anymore,” he added.