Iran is considering 13 “revenge scenarios” in response to a U.S. airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s security council said Tuesday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
“The Americans should know that until now 13 revenge scenarios have been discussed in the council and even if there is consensus on the weakest scenario carrying it out can be a historic nightmare for the Americans,” Ali Shamkhani reportedly said.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, personally told the Supreme National Security Council that Iran must respond with its own forces, The New York Times reported Monday, citing three Iranians familiar with the meeting.
Khamenei and top military commanders have said Iran’s retaliation would match the scale of Soleimani’s killing but that it would come at a time and place of Tehran’s choosing.
Khamenei, who was seen openly weeping over Soleimani coffin in Tehran Monday, vowed “forceful revenge” against the United States.
At a funeral Tuesday for Soleimani in the general’s hometown of Kerman, Iran, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, praised the general as a martyr and pledged to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States.
“We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge,” Hossein Salami told the crowd. “The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more dangerous to the enemy than Qassem Soleimani.”
According to Iranian state television, a stampede erupted at the funeral, killing 35 people and injuring 48 others.
Iran’s 13 revenge scenarios and other menacing numbers
Soleimani, 62, was killed by a U.S. airstrike at the Baghdad airport Friday along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia commander, and others. President Donald Trump ordered the operation following an attack on the U.S. embassy embassy in Baghdad led by an Iranian-backed militia.
The Pentagon said Soleimani approved the storming of the embassy and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and the wounding of thousands more in Iraq. He spent decades building a network of militant groups across the Middle East. Last spring, the State Department designated the Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organization.
Soleimani’s death has elevated U.S.-Iran tensions, with both states threatening attacks and counterattacks, often with numerical specificity.
Trump on Saturday threatened in a series of tweets to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Tehran attacks Americans or U.S. assets in response to the strike that killed Soleimani.
Late Friday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying Iran had identified “35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv” for possible retaliatory attacks.
“Movement out of Iraq”?
The U.S. military on Monday reportedly sent a letter to Iraqi officials informing them that American troops would be repositioned in preparation to leave. But the Pentagon quickly denied a U.S. withdrawal was in the offing.
“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters. “I don’t know what that letter is.”
U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter was a “poorly worded” draft document meant only to underscore increased movement by U.S. forces.
The letter, which was verified by U.S. and Iraqi defense sources, said the “movement out of Iraq” was out of respect for “your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
A day earlier, Iraq’s parliament, which is dominated by Shiite Muslim groups, passed a non-binding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country. Iran has long demanded the ouster of American-led coalition forces.
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad on Monday that both sides needed to work together to implement the parliamentary resolution, the premier’s office said, without giving a timeframe.