TEHRAN (Web Desk) – Iran s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday vowed that the end of the American presence in the Middle East had begun in scathing remarks that reiterated Iranian officials promises to avenge the US killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.
In a tweet posted on Saturday that featured photos of big crowds of Iranians mourning the death of Soleimani, Zarif hit out at his American counterpart.
"Have you EVER seen such a sea of humanity in your life, @realdonaldtrump?," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.
"Do you still want to listen to the clowns advising you on our region?" he asked Trump. "And do you still imagine you can break the will of this great nation & its people?" he added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earlier posted a video on Twitter of what he said were Iraqis celebrating the death of Soleimani. "24 hrs ago, an arrogant clown - masquerading as a diplomat - claimed people were dancing in the cities of Iraq," Zarif wrote on Saturday.
"Today, hundreds of thousands of our proud Iraqi brothers and sisters offered him their response across their soil. "End of US malign presence in West Asia has begun."
Millions of Iranians bade farewell and paid their last respect to Lieutenant-General Soleimani, the hero of liberating the Middle East from the vice and wickedness of the US-made terror groups, including Daesh (ISIS).
General Soleimani, the commander of Quds Force of Iran s IRGC and Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, the acting commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), along with eight other Iraqi and Iranian military men, were assassinated on Friday morning upon order of the US President.
Millions of Iranians all around the country took to the streets on Sunday and Monday to condemn the terror act of the US. They took to streets holding the pictures of Late General Soleimani and flags of Iran, chanting "Down with the US" and "Down with Israel".
Iran said late Sunday it was further rolling back its commitments to a nuclear deal already in tatters since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in May 2018.
In freezing early morning temperatures, women in black walked alongside men holding up flags bearing the names of Shiite imams as they walked down Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Street towards the university.
"Down with USA," said a placard held up by a young woman wearing a black chadour.
The procession was broadcast live on state television, with screens bearing a black ribbon across the top left hand corner in a rare tribute.
Khamenei appeared to cry as he prayed over the flag-draped coffins containing the remains of Soleimani and five other "martyrs" killed in the strike.
The supreme leader was flanked by Soleimani’s son, the slain general’s replacement as Quds commander Esmail Qaani, President Hassan Rouhani, parliament speaker Ali Larijani and the Guards’ top commander Major General Hossein Salami.
People prayed together with Khamenei whose voice cracked as he spoke.
"We must give a crushing response," one of the mourners told AFP.
"We must target whatever military base they have in the region. We must attack all that are in the range of our missiles," said the 61-year-old businessman who gave his name as Afkhami.
The US drone attack that killed Soleimani was ordered by Trump, who said the Quds commander had been planning an "imminent" attack on American diplomats and forces in Iraq.
Mourners in Tehran formed a sea of black along Enghelab Street dotted with red Shiite flags and white signs.
One of the placards held aloft by a man read "#hard_revenge".
As they marched towards the university, a main artery of the Iranian capital, the mourners chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" and waved flags of Iraq and Lebanon among others.
The procession comes after Soleimani’s remains were returned to Iran on Sunday.
They were paraded through the streets of the southwestern city of Ahvaz before being taken to second city Mashhad, in the country’s far northeast.
The Revolutionary Guards said the overwhelming number of mourners in Mashhad forced the cancellation of a ceremony that had been planned in Tehran on Sunday night.
Tributes pour in
Tributes have poured in from across the Middle East and beyond for Soleimani, who was seen as the Islamic republic’s second most powerful person after the supreme leader. Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Sunday offered his condolences to Khamenei, according to the supreme leader’s official website.
"Soleimani’s martyrdom caused great sorrow," said the statement. "His unique role over the years in fighting with Daesh elements in Iraq, and the great pains he endured in this path is unforgettable," it said, referring to the Islamic State group.
President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan also paid his respects in a telephone call to Rouhani. A statement from the Afghan presidential palace said Ghani assured Rouhani that "Afghan soil will never be used against any other country". The assassination of Soleimani has raised fears of a new conflict in the Middle East. On Friday, Khamenei vowed "severe revenge" as he declared three days of mourning.
Trump responded on Saturday by warning that the US was targeting 52 sites in Iran and would hit them "very fast and very hard" if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets. On Sunday, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany appealed for a de-escalation. "We call on all the players involved to show utmost restraint and responsibility," they said in a joint statement.