(CNSNews.com) – Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said on Monday “the book is not closed” on the death of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, implying that the regime still intends to avenge his killing in a U.S. drone strike early this year.
During a Council on Foreign Relations virtual event, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asked Zarif if the regime was “still considering the possibility of some kind of retaliation, or are the books closed on that?”
“No, the books are not closed,” Zarif replied. “President Trump ordered the assassination of a national hero for Iran, and a hero for the region. So the books are not closed. I’m not in the business of making threats, but the book is not closed.”
The U.S. government considers Iran to be the world’s number one terror sponsor – and has done since the 1980s – and holds the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force responsible for directing its campaign of global violence.
U.S. military officials blamed Soleimani for the deaths of hundreds of American military personnel during the Iraq War, killed by Qods-Force-armed Iraqi Shi’ite militias.
After ISIS overran large parts of Iraq in 2014, Soleimani directed some of those same militias, among others, to fight against the Sunni jihadists, while also helping to bolster Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria – an intervention that reportedly cost thousands of Syrian lives.
Zarif, in line with the regime’s hagiographical narrative, described Soleimani as “the number one enemy of ISIS,” a man beloved in the region.
“The United States made a great mistake of assassinating, in a clear terrorist way, somebody who was the number-one enemy of ISIS,” he said. “General Soleimani was revered, not only in Iran but elsewhere.”
Zarif recalled that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had tweeted after Soleimani’s death that people in Iraq were dancing in the streets, celebrating his demise.
“And we saw the next morning that tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, came to the streets of various Iraqi cities mourning the killing of Soleimani,” said Zarif. “So Soleimani has a lot of people seeking revenge for his – for his murder.”
‘We will target those who had an either direct or indirect role’
Zarif, who is often described as a “moderate” in the context of the Iranian regime, said at the Munich Security Conference last February he and Soleimani had been “good friends.” He has also disclosed that he and the Qods Force commander held weekly meetings.
Soleimani was killed in a drone strike on a vehicle near Baghdad airport on January 3, along with Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a senior leader in Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), one of the Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militia.
In his State of the Union address the following month, Trump would describe Soleimani as “the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher” and “the world’s top terrorist.”
The IRGC responded to the strike by firing rockets at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops, 110 of whom were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
Several more rocket attacks by suspected Iran-backed militia targeted U.S. troops in Iraq over the following months, and in one attack in March, two American troops and a British colleague were killed at a base north of Baghdad.
Earlier this month it was reported that the regime was plotting to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, to avenge Soleimani’s death.
On Saturday, IRGC commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami contemptuously dismissed that notion that Iran would not go after “a female ambassador in retaliation for the blood of our martyred brother.”
But he made clear vengeance was still on the cards.
“We will target those who had an either direct or indirect role in martyrdom of this great man,” Salami said during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the beginning of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. He warned that the threat was “a serious one.”