United States President Donald Trump on Saturday cautioned Iran saying that his administration is targeting “52 Iranian sites” that will be hit “very fast and very hard” if Tehran planned any attacks on Americans or Washington’s assets. His comments came after Iran vowed to take revenge for the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport early on Friday in an air strike by the United States.
“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, and badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protestors,” he tweeted. The president highlighted that Soleimani had already attacked United States’ embassies and had been preparing for other attacks.
“Let this serve as a warning that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, will be hit very fast and very hard,” he wrote. “The USA wants no more threats!” Fifty-two Americans were taken hostage in Iran for over a year from late 1979 after they were captured from the United States embassy in Tehran.
Trump on Friday had defended Soleimani’s assassination, alleging that he had contributed to “terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London”. Trump was referring to the attacks on Israeli diplomats in Delhi in February 2012.
The United States president has explained that he did not seek a regime change in Iran, and was not trying to “start a war”, even as he insisted that the Iranian administration had to end its “aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilise its neighbours”.
On Saturday, thousands of mourners gathered to attend Soleimani’s funeral procession. Many waved militia flags and chanted “death to America”, “death to Israel”, and “no, no, America”. People also grieved the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF. Apart from the top Iranian military commander and al-Muhandis, five others were killed in the air strike.
A farewell has been planned in Tehran on Sunday, where Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will lead a prayer ceremony, following which Soleimani will be buried in his hometown.