The Iranian regime and U.S. liberals have condemned President Donald Trump for ordering an airstrike that that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. But many ordinary Iranians have cheered the move.
A number of Iranians apparently baked cakes and other desserts celebrating the news, with some directly thanking Trump for his decision.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday declared three days of mourning for Soleimani, who died in the U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport along with Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. On Sunday, hundreds mourned Soleimani’s remains in the streets of Iran.
Democratic presidential contenders on Friday called Trump’s strike reckless and warned it could lead the United States to another war in the Middle East. Liberals activists protested in Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities on Saturday, and some celebrities spoke out in support of Iran and against their own country.
However, national security expert David Reaboi said on Twitter that “Iranians are baking cakes and calling for 3 days of celebrations.” Reaboi posted a number of photos from social media of what he called the “Iranian celebratory cakes.”
More Iranian celebratory cakes! pic.twitter.com/jtFkZ8OhoJ
— David Reaboi (@davereaboi) January 3, 2020
The Farashgard Foundation, an international political action network that advocates democracy in Iran, also said on Twitter, “Iranians all over Iran are celebrating #QassemSoleimani’s death by handing out cakes, treats & pizza slices!”
The group tweeted a half dozen images of the baked goods.
Iranians all over Iran are celebrating #QassemSoleimani’s death by handing out cakes, treats & pizza slices!
The signs read:”Bravo Trump”, “Celebrating the terrorist Soleimani going to hell”, “looking forward to @khamenei_ir’s demise”
Some are calling Jan 3rd a national holiday https://t.co/QEVWt1Od8W
— Farashgard Foundation (@FarashgardFdn) January 5, 2020
Soleimani, 62, was Iran’s pre-eminent military leader – head of the Revolutionary Guards’ overseas Quds Force and the architect of Iran’s spreading influence in the Middle East. Muhandis was de facto leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces umbrella body of paramilitary groups.
Why Iranians would bake cakes for Trump
The U.S. strike, which raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East, followed a sharp increase in U.S.-Iranian hostilities in Iraq. Last week, pro-Iranian militias attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad after a deadly U.S. air raid on Kataib Hezbollah, founded by Muhandis. Washington accused the group of an attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor.
According to a Vice News report published Saturday, many anti-government protesters in Iran support the strike that killed Soleimani. The commander was instrumental in the crackdown on their demonstrations, which erupted across the country in November. Government forces and militia groups killed more than 1,00 people, according to Iranian officials.
“Most Sunni and Shia protesters support the attack,” said Ali, a student demonstrator from the southern Iraqi city of Basra. “Soleimani was responsible for all Iran backed militias in Iraq. The protests are against Iran interference but that doesn’t mean we are pro U.S. We want both countries out and don’t want Iraq to be in the middle of this war.”
In Iraq, too, a lot of people were happy about the death of Soleimani, who reportedly applied lessons learned in suppressing dissent at home against Iraqi protesters fed up with Iranian influence and government corruption.
On Friday — a day before the Popular Mobilization Forces led thousands in mourning on the streets of Baghdad — spontaneous celebrations broke out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted what he said was footage of the moment.
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more. pic.twitter.com/huFcae3ap4
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020
Michael Doran, a foreign policy expert and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, also shared the videos on Friday along with cakes said to have been baked by grateful Iraqis to celebrate Soleimani’s death.
Happy Iraqis bake cakes and sweets to celebrate the bright morning after and to thank President Trump | pic.twitter.com/tofOSI3cyz
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 3, 2020
“The USA wants no more threats!”
Trump said in a press conference Friday that Soleimani had been plotting “imminent and sinister” attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.
In a series of tweets Saturday, Trump threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Tehran attacks Americans or U.S. assets in response the the strike that killed Soleimani along with Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iran, Trump tweeted, “is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets” in revenge for Soleimani’s death. Trump said the United States has “targeted 52 Iranian sites” and that some were “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”
“The USA wants no more threats!” Trump said, adding that the 52 targets represented the 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for 444 days after being seized at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 – an enduring sore spot in U.S.-Iranian relations.
An eye for an eye?
Trump referenced an unusually specific number of potential Iranian targets after a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander had also mentioned a specific number of American targets – 35 of them – for possible retaliatory attacks in response to Soleimani’s killing.
General Gholamali Abuhamzeh was quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying late on Friday that Iran will punish Americans wherever they are within reach of the Islamic Republic, and raised the prospect of attacks on ships in the Gulf.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there. … Vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago. … Some 35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv are within our reach,” he was quoted as saying.
Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah militia warned Iraqi security forces to stay away from U.S. bases in Iraq, “by a distance not less than a thousand meters [six-tenths of a mile] starting Sunday evening,” reported Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV, which is close to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
On Saturday evening, a rocket fell inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy, another hit the nearby Jadriya neighborhood and two more were fired at the Balad air base north of the city, but no one was killed, Iraq’s military said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)