Tens of thousands of Iranians thronged the streets of Tehran on Monday for the funeral of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a U.S. air strike last week in Baghdad.
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.
Anger against the United States and Donald Trump was still palpable. Soleimani’s daughter said his death would bring a “dark day” for the United States.
“Crazy Trump, don’t think that everything is over with my father’s martyrdom,” Zeinab Soleimani said in her address broadcast on state television after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered Friday’s strike that killed the top Iranian general.
Iran has promised to avenge the killing 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.
In response to Iran’s warnings, Trump has threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites, including cultural targets, if Tehran attacks Americans or U.S. assets, deepening a crisis that has heightened fears of a major Middle East conflagration.
The coffins of the Iranian general and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was also killed in Friday’s attack on Baghdad airport, 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 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.