'This Is Bigger Than Bin Laden': Iran Vows to Send US Troops Home in 'Coffins', Region Braces for Face-Off
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JERUSALEM, Israel - The face-off between Iran and the US has the Middle East bracing for everything from targeted strikes to war. The consequences of the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday are being felt throughout the region and around the world.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday prayed over the remains of Soleimani’s body as hundreds of thousands of people wept and wailed during a mass ceremony in Tehran.
Soleimani’s daughter threatened revenge and warned Americans that United States troops are not safe in the Middle East.
"The families of the American soldiers in western Asia ... will spend their days waiting for the death of their children," she said to roaring applause.
From Baghdad to Beruit, Iran and its allies are promising revenge and retaliation. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed his terror group can now target the US in the region.
"It is the American military who killed them and it is them who will pay the price," Nasrallah said during a speech in Beirut.
The terror leader said he will target "US military bases, soldiers, officers and warships” and President Donald Trump will know he has lost in the Middle East when "the coffins of American soldiers and officers begin to return home.”
The Shiite-dominated Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution on Sunday to kick the US out of Iraq while Iran announced it will no longer comply with the restrictions of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Oil prices are up and the strategic strait of Hormuz could be a key target for Iran to hit the most strategic waterway for the world’s oil supply.
Former chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezaei said Israel is also a target.
“Iran’s revenge against America for the assassination of Soleimani will be severe... Haifa and Israeli military centers will be included in the retaliation,” Reuters reports Rezaei said in a televised speech on Sunday in Tehran.
In Washington, Trump says the US will strike back in case of any Iranian retaliation.
“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level [and] important to Iran [and] the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” the president tweeted over the weekend.
The US is sending an additional 3,500 troops to the region and deploying missiles at embassies and US bases.
Trump said the United States “will quickly [and] fully strike back, and perhaps in a disproportionate manner” if Iran attacks.
On Sunday talk shows, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the strike.
“We would have been culpably negligent had we not gone after Soleimani when we had the opportunity,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday,” and added that he “was actively engaged in plotting against American interests.”
Pompeo also accused the Obama administration of enabling the Iranian regime.
“In 2015, the Obama-Biden administration essentially handed power to Iranian leadership and acted as a quasi ally of theirs by underwriting them, underwriting the very militias that killed Americans. Those resources, the money that they had to build out those forces throughout the Shi'a Crescent was provided to them by the nuclear deal.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Iran is trying to hijack the Iraqi government.
“The Iranian government is trying to basically take over Iraq's political system. Iran is bribing Iraqi politicians to the Iraqi people, do not allow your politicians to turn Iraq into a proxy of Iran,” he told Fox News.
Retired General David Petraeus told CBS’ “Face the Nation” the strike hit Iran’s most powerful military figure.
“This is bigger than Bin Laden. It's bigger than Baghdadi. This is the equivalent in US terms of the CIA Director, the Centcom Commander, JSOP Commander and Presidential Envoy for the region for Iran – the most powerful figure in Iran for solidification of the Shia crescent and also the operational plans they were pursuing,” he explained.
While many are mourning Soleimani, others in Iraq and Iran are celebrating the death of who many considered the mastermind of terror throughout the Middle East.
John Hannah of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who served as Vice President Dick Cheney's national security advisor, tells CBN News that Trump's decision to strike Iran's top terrorist should strike fear in the heart of the Islamist regime. Hannah says Trump "took the biggest terrorist mastermind in the world off the battlefield."
Social media shows some Iraqis and Iranians celebrating Soleimani’s death.
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more. pic.twitter.com/huFcae3ap4— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020
Despite the talk of war, some are asking if this could also be a time for diplomatic overtures to Iran. Yet in the meantime, there’s heightened security in major US cities and concern about cyberattacks on key infrastructure throughout the US.
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