Iran has reacted strongly to the US drone strike which killed its top military leader General Qassem Soleimani on January 3.

Foreign minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet that this was a “foolish escalation” and an “act of terrorism,” threatening the US with “consequences.”

“Perhaps America’s action was a response to the pain that this great man had inflicted on them,” Zarif said.

The killing will make Iran’s people more united and “will also make U.S. policies more scandalous and less effective than before,” he added.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini also tweeted out a statement, calling Soleimani a “martyr” who, after “years of sincere and courageous struggle” finally died. He vowed “harsh retaliation.”

In a tweet on Khameini’s English language account, he writes “In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful,” a Quranic line that is usually used to indicate the beginning of something. Some have interpreted this line to indicate that the killing of Soleimani could be the beginning of major US-Iranian military action.

Iran also summoned the Swiss charges d’affaires, who represents U.S. interests in Tehran.

A declaration of war that will likely “change the focus of domestic anger”

According to several analysts, Iran is interpreting the killing of its top general as a declaration of war.

Director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group Ali Vaez told Euronews: “The consequences of General Soleimani’s assassination at this stage are uncertain but what is certain is that Iran is going to take retaliatory measures of its own either in a proportionate or disproportionate manner, but in either case, the risks of escalation and stumbling into a full-fledged war are probably now higher than at any point in the past few decades.”

Vaez predicts that the US attack will likely cause the Iranian parliament “to fall into the hands of the most militant and hardline elements within the Iranian system. This has also the potential of completely changing the focus of domestic anger against political stagnation and economic stagnation to national security questions and help the Iranian system to rally the population around the flag.”

“In the same way that the Iran-Iraq war basically helped consolidate the Islamic Republic, I think this measure is likely to help Iran change the subject domestically, and militarise and securitise the domestic sphere around the national security threat posed by the United States,” Vaez concludes.

Vaez further said that “Iran is a very powerful country. It has a network of proxies and partners around the region. It can go after US and US allies’ foreign interests all the way from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, to the UAE, to Iraq, to Lebanon, to Syria and Afghanistan.”

In the same way that the Iran-Iraq war basically helped consolidate the Islamic Republic, I think this measure is likely to help Iran change the subject domestically, and militarise and securitise the domestic sphere around the national security threat posed by the United States.

Ali Vaez
Director of the Iran Project at the ICG

He added that an all-out war between the US and Iran “would make the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq look like a walk in the park.” Vaez also reckons that the US would likely be alone if it were to go to war with Iran.

“The reality is that the US has done everything in the past few years to provoke the Iranians,” Vaez pointed out.

Talk of World War III

While leading Friday prayers in Tehran, advisor to Khomeini and known hardliner, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said: “This is the time to clear the region from these insidious beasts.”

Iranian state television called Trump’s order to kill Soleimani “the biggest miscalculation by the U.S.” since World War II. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay,” it said.

For Iran, the killing represents the loss of a cultural icon who represented national pride and resilience while facing U.S. sanctions. While careful to avoid involving himself in politics, Soleimani’s profile rose sharply as U.S. and Israeli officials blamed him for Iranian proxy attacks abroad.

In reaction to the killing, the hashtag #WorldWar3 and #WWIII quickly started trending on Twitter.

One Iranian Twitter user compared the assassination of Soleimani to that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which is considered the most immediate cause of World War I. The tweet insinuates that this could be the beginning of another world war.

Another user, who appears to be conscripted in the army, states that “poor” him is a “neutral soldier,” pointing out that he expects his situation as part of the military to get much worse soon.

Other users are in line with the government response, such as this one, who promises “we will take vigorous revenge on America.”


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