Huge crowds in Iran for Soleimani’s funeral
Published: 03:44 PM, 6 January 2020 Updated: 03:45 PM, 6 January 2020
Tens of thousands of people packed the streets of the Iranian capital Tehran on Monday for the funeral of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in US air strike.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers at the Tehran funeral, weeping at one point during the traditional Muslim prayers for the dead.
Soleimani was assassinated on Friday in an air strike by the United States in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq on Friday on the orders of President Donald Trump.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi), an Iran-backed umbrella organisation comprising several militias among several other people were also killed in the Friday's attack.
Iran has vowed "severe revenge" for the death of Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s drive to extend its influence across the region and a national hero among many Iranians, even many of those who did not consider themselves devoted supporters of the Islamic Republic’s clerical rulers.
The scale of the crowds in Tehran shown on television mirrored the masses that gathered in 1989 for the funeral of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The coffins of the Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were passed across the heads of mourners massed in central Tehran, many of them chanting “Death to America”.
One of the Islamic Republic’s major regional goals, namely to drive US forces out of neighboring Iraq, came a step closer on Sunday when the Iraqi parliament backed a recommendation by the prime minister for all foreign troops to be ordered out.
“Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” said Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November amid anti-government protests.
Iraq’s rival Shi’ite leaders, including ones opposed to Iranian influence, have united since Friday’s attack in calling for the expulsion of US troops.
Esmail Qaani, the new head of the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ unit in charge of activities abroad, said Iran would continue Soleimani’s path and said: “the only compensation for us would be to remove America from the region.”
Prayers at Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran, which will later move to his southern home city of Kerman, were led by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran behind Khamenei.
The funeral was attended by some of Iran’s allies in the region, including Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas who said: “I declare that the martyred commander Soleimani is a martyr of Jerusalem.”
Adding to tensions, Iran said it was taking another step back from commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers, a pact from which the United States withdrew in 2018.
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