(CNSNews.com) – The commander of Iran’s military division responsible for terror operations abroad escalated the regime’s war of words with Washington Thursday, warning President Trump that his Qods Force was “ready,” and saying that “you may start the war, but we will be the ones who end it.”
“Trump should know that we are nation of martyrs and that we await him,” Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani told a gathering in the central city of Hamedan.
“Don’t threaten us,” the Fars news agency and other state media quoted him as saying in the Farsi-language remarks. “We are thirsty for martyrdom and eradicating arrogance.”
Soleimani also boasted that the Qods Force, the external operations division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), could alone deal with the U.S.
“There is no need for Iran’s Armed Forces to get involved,” he said. “I myself and the IRGC’s Qods Force are enough to face you as an adversary.”
Soleimani was reacting to Trump’s warning to President Hassan Rouhani, in a tweet late on Sunday night, to never again threaten the U.S., or risk “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.’’
The tweet was in turn a response to Rouhani’s earlier remarks, warning Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail” and saying that a war with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”
“You should know that there is not even a single night that we don’t think of destroying you,” Soleimani said in his speech Thursday. “We are so close to you, in places that you might not even think of. We are ready.”
“You know that this war would mean the destruction of all of your resources,” he said. “You may start the war, but we will be the ones who end it.”
Elsewhere in the speech, Soleimani mocked the U.S. over its long war in Afghanistan, saying it had invaded in 2001 with 110,000 troops and hundreds of military aircraft and now, 17 years later, it was imploring the Taliban to negotiate.
“What the hell have you done? You are threatening us?”
During the Iraq war, he claimed, the U.S. commander had asked him to use his influence with Shi’ite militia to help facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
(U.S. military officials have attributed the deaths of some 500 U.S. personnel in Iraq to the Qods Force and Soleimani. Many of the fatalities were caused by IEDs known as explosively formed penetrators, provided by Tehran to Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies, and reportedly similar to ones used by Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon.)
‘Why don’t we kill them?’
The U.S. government has designated the Qods Force for terrorism since 2007, accusing it among other things of providing material support to the Taliban, Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups including Hamas.
It is linked to acts of international terrorism including the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israel Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people; a foiled 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador (Adel al-Jubeir, now foreign minister) by bombing a Washington restaurant; and the assassination of scores of Iranian dissidents abroad.
Soleimani himself was designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2007 for supporting terror; in May 2011, for supporting the Assad regime’s repression; and in Oct, 2011, for his role in the stymied plot to kill al-Jubeir in Washington
(Separately, Soleimani was designated by the U.N. Security Council for travel restrictions and an asset freeze. Under the Iran nuclear deal, those U.N. sanctions were due to fall away about eight years into the agreement, or around 2024.)
When the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee held a hearing in 2011 on Iranian terror on U.S. soil, two former security officials testifying suggested it was time to assassinate terrorists like Soleimani.
“Why are we permitting the Qods Force leaders, who have been organizing this killing of us for 30 years, to go around, still walking around?” asked former U.S. Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane.
“Why don’t we kill them? We kill other people who are running terrorist organizations against the United States. These guys have killed almost a thousand of us. Why don’t we kill them?”
Also testifying was Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, who said that if the Qods Force was held responsible for the foiled Washington assassination plot, then Soleimani should be held accountable.
“Qassem Soleimani travels a lot, he’s all over the place,” he said. “Go get him. Either try to capture him, or kill him. I think you have to send a pretty powerful message to those who have undertaken this, or I think down the road you’re asking for it. They will read this not as a response of someone who’s strong, but as a response of someone who’s weak.”
The regime in Tehran reacted angrily, summoning the Swiss ambassador – who represents U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic – to protest.
Among Iranian officials who protested publicly was then-Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, himself a former Qods Force commander.
Vahidi is among several senior Iranians wanted by Argentinian authorities – and the subject of an Interpol red notice – on suspicion of involvement in the AMIA bombing.