Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, declared Wednesday that the “ultimate revenge” against America for the elimination of terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani would be the full withdrawal of American troops from the Middle East.
That response would come not from Iran, but from other regional states currently housing U.S. troops, Rouhani alleged.
Rouhani redefined the intense and deadly revenge the Iranian authoritarian regime has been threatening for days against the United States after Tehran ordered over a dozen ballistic missiles shot at Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops early Wednesday morning, reportedly hitting no targets and causing no casualties at press time. The “revenge” has been branded retaliation for a U.S. airstrike eliminating Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.
The IRGC is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. Its Quds Force is responsible for international acts of terror intended to expand Iranian influence. Soleimani actively engaged in civilian attacks to help dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria and, more recently, was believed to be behind the sniper attacks against Iraqi civilian protesters urging Iran to withdraw from the country. U.S. officials have said they had evidence Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on American citizens.
After vows of “hard” revenge from Iran, Rouhani indicated that the missile attack on Wednesday – which Iran claims resulted in 80 dead Americans, but both the United States and Iraq say killed or injured no one – concludes Iran’s response to the U.S. strike on Soleimani.
“They (Americans) cut off the arm of dear General Soleimani in this crime. The revenge is that we cut off the US feet in the region,” Rouhani said, according to Tasnim News Agency, an Iranian outlet. According to Tasnim, the president said “the ‘ultimate revenge and response’ to the American assassination of the Iranian commander will be given by regional nations, stressing that the U.S. must be thrown out of the region forever.”
The state outlet Fars News had a more extended summary of Rouhani’s remarks, in which he also accused President Donald Trump of approving the strike on Soleimani “because of the internal issues and complications in the US and the White House,” hinting at the increasingly common conspiracy theory on the left that the strike was somehow related to ongoing impeachment proceedings.
He accused the United States of “sowing discord inside Iran, creating fear and division in the region and distance between the Iraqi government and people and the Iranian government and people, as well as affecting regional dynamics and efforts that were directed towards full liberation of the region from terrorists, which they failed to do so.”
He also attempted to make the response look larger by tagging onto it the appearance of support for Soleimani in Iranian-controlled regions of Iraq.
“The first response was the big presence of the people of Iraq in Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf, Basra and other cities of this country,” Rouhani claimed. “This proved that the people of Iran and Iraq are on the same route and jihadist commanders of these two nations are on the same path.”
Rouhani called the large crowds forced to attend a national funeral for Soleimani in Iran a “miracle.” Iran failed to properly plan for the funeral and a stampede killed 35 people and injured over 100 others on Tuesday.
He then confirmed that Iran had concluded its response to Soleimani, issuing negligible damage to the United States, according to President Donald Trump in remarks Wednesday. Rouhani threatened further attacks only if the United States once again targeted Iranian regime assets.
“If America commits a crime, it will receive a decisive response from our armed forces no matter how much it makes threats,” Rouhani said. “If America wants to commit another crime from now on, it must know that it will receive a stronger response.”
Rouhani also made several outrageous claims, such as that Iran does “not have proxy forces” – it controls Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthi movement, and several Iraqi Shiite militias, among others – and that Soleimani was a “moderate.”
Rouhani’s comments followed those of his boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who similarly appeared to conclude Iran’s response to Soleimani’s death.
“The talk of revenge and such debates are a different issue. For now, a slap was delivered on their face last night,” Khamenei said in televised remarks Wednesday. “What is important about confrontation is that the military action as such is not sufficient. What is important is that the seditious American presence in the region must end.”
Khamenei similarly demanded the United States withdraw from the Middle East but did not proclaim that anything had happened to bring that demand closer to reality.
The supreme leader added that Iran would not cease to be belligerent towards the United States as the Quran commands war with America.
“Some people say and even write in newspapers that we should act so that America does not get angry; this is absolutely wrong. This is contrary to the Qur’an commandment,” Khamenei said. “It is a very blatant mistake that some people think if they take a step back, the Americans will stop their hostility.”
“I am firmly saying that the enemy is America, the Zionist regime and the arrogant apparatus of corporations and institutions,” Khamenei affirmed.
He concluded with more praise for Soleimani: “The lying Americans who are not worthy of being valued tried to portray this brave man as a terrorist but the Iranian nation punched them in the mouth.”
Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, echoed these statements, suggesting Iran had concluded its retaliation without causing any harm to the American government or its people.
“Our next measures will be proportionate to the American behavior,” he said on Wednesday, according to Iranian media. He emphasized that the missile attack early Wednesday was “harsh revenge.”
The only potential casualties of the attack at press time could be the 176 people killed when a Ukrainian Boeing 737 crashed shortly after flying out of Tehran early Wednesday. Iranian regime officials immediately claimed mechanical failure, but Ukrainian airline officials said this was close to impossible as the plane had received a regular quality check on Monday. Iran has refused to hand the plane’s black box over to Boeing.