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‘We Did Not Think US Would Target Another Country’s Guest’ - Rouhani on Soleimani Assassination

© AP Photo / Iranian Presidency OfficeIn this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 8, 2019
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - Sputnik International
Qasem Soleimani, the former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force, was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant General. Incredibly popular amongst most Iranians, the late General was a key figure in coordinating anti-Daesh forces in Iraq and Syria.

Speaking to his cabinet on Wednesday morning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hailed the late General Qasem Soleimani as "Iran’s border guard" and a symbol of "bravery" and "martyrdom". The US assassination of the then head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force was blasted as an “act of war” by the Iranian government.

“We knew that America is a master criminal, but we did not think they would target another country’s guest” Rouhani said, adding that the late General was “a great commander of fighting terrorism”.

"The martyrdom of General Soleimani was retaliated from the military perspective and our armed forces and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution [IRGC] responded to it by targeting Ain al-Assad base with missiles, showing that they will definitely get the response of their crime”, the president said.

Rouhani also suggested that major compensation for Soleimani’s assassination would be for regional peoples to try to expel the US.

US President Donald Trump said that he ordered the assassination of Soleimani because he was "plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him". Though the US government has yet to present evidence of such plots being directed by Soleimani. Furthermore, after the assassination, the Iraqi Prime Minister revealed that Soleimani was in Iraq at his invitation and as part of a peace effort to de-escalate tensions between Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

On 10 January, Trump also claimed that Soleimani was plotting attacks against four separate US embassies. Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defence, would later tell CBS news that he saw no evidence that embassy attacks were being prepared by the late Iranian General, on 12 January. Though the Defence Secretary would become more supportive of Trump’s position later in the day, telling CNN that what Trump said, “is what I believe as well”.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the US attack as an act of “aggression” against his country and an "outrageous" violation of its sovereignty. In addition to Soleimani 9 people were killed, including the deputy head of the People's Mobalisation Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and the PMU press spokesperson Mohammed al-Jaberi. The PMU militias have been incorporated into the Iraqi military, and so are officially Iraqi soldiers, though there are critics in the US who complain that some PMU militias are ‘too close’ to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Soleimani headed. Abdul-Mahdi prased Soleimani and al-Muhandis as "two martyrs" who were "huge symbols" in achieving victory against Daesh (IS, ISIS, the Islamic State).

The Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign troops from the country on 6 January. Yet, despite the resolution passing unanimously in the Iraq parliament, the US government has refused to discuss the withdrawal of the 5,000 or so troops in the country stating that “America is a force for good in the Middle East”. 

General Soleimani had the highest approval ratings of any public figure in Iran, with 80% of the population viewing him favourably, according to extensive polling completed by the University of Maryland in 2019.

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