Hezbollah leader says Soleimani killing marks new phase for region

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Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday the killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani marked a new phase in the history of the Middle East.

Referring to the date of Soleimani’s killing in a US air strike in Baghdad, Nasrallah said it was a “date separating two phases in the region ... it is the start of a new phase and new history not just for Iran or Iraq but the whole region.”

Nasrallah, speaking in a televised speech marking Soleimani’s death in a targeted US airstrike, said responding to the killing was not only Iran’s responsibility but the responsibility of its allies in the region too.

He said the US military in the Middle East would pay the price for the killing of Soleimani, and US soldiers and officers would return home in coffins.

Nasrallah said attacks on the US military presence in the Middle East would be “fair punishment” for the killing of Soleimani, listing US bases, naval ships and military personnel.

RELATED: Khamenei adviser tells CNN Iran’s response will be a military one

Founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, Hezbollah is a critical part of an Iranian-backed regional military alliance.

The United States has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“When the coffins of American soldiers and officers begin to be transported ... to the United States, (US President Donald) Trump and his administration will realize that they have really lost the region and will lose the elections,” Nasrallah said, referring to the 2020 US presidential election.

Nasrallah said such an approach would force the United States to withdraw from the Middle East “humiliated, defeated and in terror ... as they left in the past.”

Nasrallah also said that US civilians in the region “should not be touched” because this would serve Trump’s agenda.

Hassan Nasrallah said he had warned Soleimani of the risk of assassination and met him in the Lebanese capital Beirut on New Year’s Day before he was killed in the US attack in Baghdad.

In his speech commemorating Soleimani, Nasrallah said he had told Iran’s pre-eminent military commander some time ago of concern for his life.

“I told him ... there is great focus on you in the American media, press and magazines and they’re printing your pictures on the front page as ‘the irreplaceable general,’ this is media and political priming for your assassination,” Nasrallah said.

“Of course he laughed and told me, I hope so, pray for me.”

Nasrallah said Soleimani had visited him in Beirut on January 1. “He just said ‘I’ve come to say hello and have a chat,’ and I told him this was a beautiful start to the Gregorian new year,” Nasrallah said.

The 62-year-old major general Soleimani was regarded as the second-most powerful figure in Iran after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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