Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the city streets not in celebration, but in condemnation of the assassination of military leader Qassem Soleimani. An airstrike ordered by Donald Trump and carried out on Thursday night killed Soleimani and “triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum,” Al-Jazeera reported.
The airstrike that killed Soleimani happened as he and few officials from Iran-backed militias were leaving Baghdad airport in two cars when a U.S. drone strike near the cargo area hit them. According to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, 10 people were killed, including five of its members and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
While the streets of Tehran and other cities across the country were flooded with protesters early Friday morning over the military leader’s assassination, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo instead said he believed Iranians were celebrating the attack.
“We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq but in Iran will view the American action last night as giving them freedom,” Pompeo said on CNN. “Freedom to have the opportunity for success and prosperity for their nations. While the political leadership may not want that, the people in these nations will demand it.”
Mike Pompeo to CNN on Suleimani assassination: “I saw last night there was dancing in the streets in parts of Iraq. We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq, but in Iran, will view the American action last night as giving them freedom.” pic.twitter.com/ALeQBqEf2g— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 3, 2020
Yet, Iranian leaders called the assassination “an act of terrorism and vowed retaliatory action against the United States,” Common Dreams reported.
“The U.S. bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister, said in a tweet.
The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani—THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al—is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 3, 2020
The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.
But the Trump administration believes its action was to stop, not start, a war. Now, Soleimani’s assassination “marks a major escalation in tensions,” the BBC reported.