Iran will never forget the US killing of its top general Qassem Soleimani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday, vowing to retaliate against the US.
Khamenei met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi who arrived in Tehran on Tuesday and met with President Hassan Rouhani earlier in the day.
Iran will never forget the US killing of Soleimani and “will definitely strike a retaliatory blow to the Americans,” Khamenei said during the meeting with al-Kadhimi.
This was Khamenei’s first meeting with a foreign official in five months. The 81-year-old supreme leader has been in strict self-isolation following the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.
Iran is heavily involved in Iraq through dozens of Shia militias that it arms and funds in the country. These militias are seen as a source of destabilization and instability in Iraq.
Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the overseas arms of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport on January 3.
Iran retaliated days later by launching a ballistic missile strike against military bases in Iraq hosting US troops. Hours later, the IRGC shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran that it said it mistook for a cruise missile after days of denying responsibility.
The US does not want an independent and strong Iraq, Khamenei claimed.
Iran does not interfere in Iraq’s relations with the US “but expects Iraqi friends to know that US presence in any country is a source of corruption and destruction,” he said.
Iran has never had and will never interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, Khamenei said, adding that Iran opposes anything that weakens the Iraqi government.
“Of course, the expansion of Iran-Iraq relations has opponents led by America, but in no way should we be afraid of America because it cannot do anything,” Khamenei said.