Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has threatened "severe retaliation" against the "criminals" who killed Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran's Quds Force who died in a U.S. air strike in western Baghdad on January 3.
The U.S. military said it carried out the "defensive" strike to prevent Soleimani from orchestrating further attacks against U.S. interests in the region.
Seyed Mehdi Parpanchi, Director of RFE/RL’s Iranian Service, Radio Farda, says that Soleimani “was the second most powerful man in Iran. No military commander, no politician had the power that he had. He was in direct communication with all Iran's proxies [in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen] and the commanders that were leading those forces. So it's not going to be easy for Iran to find another person that is known to all of these forces and can be trusted by all of them.”
Regarding reactions inside Iran, Parpanchi said, "There is a small minority that is condemning this attack and saying that what the U.S. did is terrorism, but a majority of the people that we see on social media, especially on Twitter, on Instagram are kind of happy that this has happened. Please do not forget that almost six weeks ago, there was unrest inside Iran, protests in over 100 cities and, in most of these cities, the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] was the major force that suppressed these protests and killed hundreds of people.”
On what might happen next, he said, “Iran is in a very, very bad position in terms of the economy and in terms of public support. And when you don't have money and you don't have public support, you don't want a war. And that's exactly what [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei said a few days ago. He said: We do not want to get into a war with America”
Parpanchi can be reached for further comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +4220.127.116.111.
To learn more about harassment of Radio Farda journalists by Iranian authorities, watch this December 2019 Deutsche Welle video report.
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