(CNSNews.com) – With the approaching anniversary of the death of Qassem Soleimani, Iranian regime representatives are escalating talk of revenge, and the Qods Force commander is being lionized as a larger-than-life Islamic champion.
The spokesman for a committee set up to oversee the commemoration announced on Sunday that a list of Americans the regime holds responsible for the targeted killing has now reached 48 names.
Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spokesman for the “popular committee for the celebration of the anniversary of the martyrdom,” said the judiciary is pursuing justice and has delivered notices in that regard to six countries so far. Iran was in addition seeking “hard revenge” that will be exacted in the proper manner, state media quoted him as saying.
The regime has not publicly named its targets, although last June Tehran’s prosecutor-general confirmed that President Trump’s name topped the list, which then comprised 36 names.
Trump gave the order for the drone strike that killed Soleimani near Baghdad airport on January 3. Also killed was Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, leader of the Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah.
On Christmas Day, Qods Force deputy commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi echoed earlier remarks by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the effect that Iran’s response entails two elements – “slaps” in the face, and vengeance.
“Slaps” delivered to the U.S. thus far included the mass memorials for Soleimani and Muhandis in the days following their deaths, and an Iranian rocket attack on two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Slaps yet to come, Hejazi said, would be the expulsion of U.S. troops from the region, and the defeat of U.S. “software” – assumed to be a reference to cyberattacks.
“[But] those are only slaps,” he said. “Harsh revenge” is yet to be taken.
In his earlier comments, Khamenei told relatives of Soleimani that vengeance would come, at the right time, against “those who ordered the murder and those who carried it out.”
After a volley of rockets was fired at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Dec. 20, causing some damage, Trump warned on Twitter, “Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.” The regime has denied responsibility.
U.S. Central Command commander Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters in a virtual briefing last Monday that the U.S. was “ready to react” to defend itself and its allies and friends in the region if the regime uses the anniversary to launch an attack.
“We are in a very good position and we’ll be prepared for anything the Iranians or their proxies acting for them might choose to do,” he said.
McKenzie described Soleimani as a “magnetic, charismatic leader” and a “practiced and cutthroat and ruthless” operator whose removal from the battlefield has left remaining forces less well coordinated.
‘Sailing the ship of deliverance’
As next Sunday’s anniversary looms, the public veneration of Soleimani continues apace, with the regime even naming a coronavirus response program – the “Martyr Haj Qassem Soleimani project” – for him.
Mohammad Kazem Anbarloui, editor of a conservative pro-Khamenei daily Resalat, wrote that Soleimani was not a mere strategist, but “a political, military, social and cultural super-strategist.”
For Naim Qasim, the U.S.-sanctioned deputy leader of Hezbollah, Soleimani “was well-versed in politics, understood international, regional, and local equations, and approached matters using his clear and insightful vision.”
“It was he who set his sights on the liberation of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and Palestine, heeding the call of Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini, the imam of the ummah, the revolution, and the path – ‘Israel is a cancerous gland that must be eradicated from existence.’”
“Qassem Soleimani carried his heart from [his hometown] Kerman to Palestine, spreading the scent of victory,” began a lengthy column in a Hezbollah publication on Sunday. “He liked fighting while bullets were raining down and falling asleep under walls that were shattered by war. On the way to Al-Quds, he became habituated with the Iraqi desert, the fragrance of the Levant, and the olives of the south. With mercy and compassion, he the patted the heads of orphans and bowed with humility, kissing the hands of the Mujahideen.”
In similar vein, a leader in Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia described Soleimani as “the Knight of al-Quds.”
“He proved that Islamic Iran is a shield and a victory for all Muslims and those oppressed in the world and that it is sailing the ship of deliverance in the seas of American-Zionist oppression and authoritarianism,” declared Abdul-Ilah Muhammad Hajar.
Soleimani led the regime’s military intervention in the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, at the cost of large numbers of civilian lives. His Qods Force was implicated in terrorist and assassination plots in a number of countries, and U.S. military leaders blamed him for the deaths of hundreds of American troops killed by proxy militias during the Iraq war.
Shortly after ordering the drone strike, Trump described Soleimani as “the world’s top terrorist” and “the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher.”