Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly wept presiding over prayers for the slain head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Qasem Soleimani as sea of black-clad Iranians take to Tehran’s streets in mourning.
The targeted killing of 62-year-old Soleimani ordered by US President Donald Trump saw the Islamic republic vow “severe revenge” before abandoning commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Trump responded by saying that 52 Iranian sites were being considered as targets should Tehran choose to retaliate militarily, shortly after Iraqi MPs voted to oust the 5,200 US troops stationed in the country following the Baghdad drone attack that killed top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The US president did not take well to talk of troop expulsion, threatening sanctions against Iraq that he said would ‘make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame’.
NATO ambassadors were to hold an extraordinary meeting at Brussels headquarters to “address the situation in the region,” said an official of the alliance, which has been forced to suspend its training mission in Iraq.
Procession through Tehran
The coffins of Soleimani and the Iraqi militia leader al-Muhandis were draped in their national flags and passed hand-to-hand over mourners in a highly emotional Tehran procession.
Roads were blocked as hundreds of thousands thronged Tehran University’s surrounding area before flowing into Azadi Square to pay respects to the man largely considered the second most important figure after the supreme leader.
As shown on television, the number of mourners appeared to be the biggest since the 1989 funeral of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The supreme leader was flanked by President Hassan Rouhani and other top political and military figures as well as Soleimani’s son and the slain general’s replacement as Quds commander, Esmail Qaani.
“Down with USA,” read a placard held up by a young woman wearing a black chadour, while another sign, held aloft by a man, called for “#hard_revenge”.
“We must give a crushing response,” one of the mourners said.
“We must target whatever military base they have in the region,” said the 61-year-old businessman who gave his name as Afkhami.
“We must attack all that are in the range of our missiles.”