Donald Trump has threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacks Americans or US assets in retaliation for the drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani and an Iraqi militia leader.
Despite the strike raising the spectre of wider conflict in the Middle East, Trump showed no signs of seeking to ease the tensions raised by the strike that also killed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport, saying the US wanted “no more thrreats” from Iran.
His comments came hours before Suleimani’s body was returned to Iran, the coffin arriving by plane in the south-west city of Ahvaz early on Sunday morning.
State television footage showed a tide of mourners packing the streets of the city to pay their respects to the general, chanting “Death to America”.
They gathered in a square with flags in green, white and red depicting the blood of “martyrs”, beat their chests to the sound of Shiite chants and held up portraits of the general, seen as a national hero.
“A glorious crowd is at the ceremony,” said state television. “The presence of children, teenagers, relatives, veterans, families of martyrs of (the Iran-Iraq war) and defenders of Haram (those martyred in Syria) is a glimpse of the glory of this ceremony.”
It was expected that the body would be taken to Tehran later and finally to his home town, Kerman, on Tuesday.
Trump tweeted earlier that Iran “is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets” in response to Suleimani’s death. But he said the US had “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 US embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
The strike ordered by the US president has raised the spectre of wider conflict in the Middle East.Donald J. Trump
Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently….
January 4, 2020Donald J. Trump
….hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..
January 4, 2020
Trump did not identify the sites. The Pentagon referred questions about the matter to the White House, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked about Trump’s tweets during an interview with Fox News, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said: “The president is trying to make it clear to the Iranians that this is a very bad path for them to go down.”
O’Brien added: “The Iranians should be very careful … We’ve said we consider the matter resolved – if they decide to move forward against the United States there will be severe consequences as the president pointed out.”
Trump’s suggestion that the US could strike targets important to Iranian culture raised eyebrows.
Colin Kahl, a former Obama administration national security official, wrote on Twitter that he “found it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites. Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD planners and lawyers do … and targeting cultural sites is war crime.”
The series of tweets came as the White House sent to Congress a formal notification under the War Powers Act of the drone strike, a senior administration official said.
US law requires notification within 48 hours of the introduction of American forces into an armed conflict or a situation that could lead to war.
The notification was classified and it was not known if a public version would be released. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the classified document suggests Congress and the American people are being left in the dark about national security.
Thousands of mourners took to the streets in Iraq after the strike, including many militiamen in uniform for whom Muhandis and Suleimani were heroes. They carried portraits of both men and plastered them on walls and armoured personnel carriers in the procession. Chants of “Death to America” and “No No Israel” rang out.
On Saturday evening, a rocket fell inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the US embassy, another hit the nearby Jadriya neighbourhood and two more rockets were fired at the Balad air base north of the city, but no one was killed, the Iraqi military said in a statement. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Tehran would punish Americans “wherever they are in reach”, and raised the prospect of possible attacks on ships in the Gulf.
Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah militia warned Iraqi security forces to stay away from US bases in Iraq “by a distance not less than a thousand metres starting Sunday evening”, reported Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV, which is close to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Trump said on Friday that Suleimani had been plotting “imminent and sinister” attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. Democratic critics said the Republican president’s action was reckless and risked more bloodshed in a dangerous region.
With security worries rising after Friday’s strike, the NATO alliance and a separate US-led mission suspended their programmes to train Iraqi security and armed forces, officials said.
France stepped up diplomatic initiatives on Saturday to ease tensions. French president Emmanuel Macron talked with Iraq president Barham Salih, Macron’s office said. Macron also spoke with the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.Topics
Donald Trump has threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites "very hard" if Iran attacks Americans or US assets in retaliation for the drone strike that killed the Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani and an Iraqi militia leader.