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Iran taunts US after Trump threats

January 5, 2020

Donald Trump warned Iran would be hit "very hard" if Tehran retaliated against the US, saying "52 sites" were targeted. But Iran's army chief said the US lacked the "courage" to initiate a conflict.

Iranians march through the streets of Ahvaz to pay homage to Qassem Soleimani
Image: AFP/Fars/H. Mersadi

Iran's army chief on Sunday said the US lacked the "courage" to initiate a conflict, after US President Donald Trump warned the US would hit dozens of targets in the Islamic Republic if Tehran attacked.

"I doubt they have the courage to initiate" a conflict in which the Americans threatened to strike 52 targets, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said, as quoted by state news agency IRNA.

President Donald Trump on Saturday had reacted strongly to Iran's threats of reprisals after a US drone strike killed Iran's top army general, Qassem Soleimani.

The president said the US was targeting 52 sites in Iran and would hit them "very fast and very hard" if Tehran attacked American personnel or assets.

Read more: Who was Qassem Soleimani, Iran's Quds Force leader?

Important cultural sites 'targeted'

Trump began his series of tweets by saying: "Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime."

He continued: "Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD."

Trump concluded with a stern warning for Tehran: "The USA wants no more threats!"

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif lashed out at President Trump for threatening to target his country's cultural sites.

"Targeting cultural sites is a war crime," Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Iran's telecommunications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, compared Trump to "Islamic State" [commanders], Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan. "They all hate cultures. Trump is a 'terrorist in a suit,''' Jahromi wrote on Twitter.

Mediation efforts

Trump's words came in stark contrast to those from Europe, with Germany, France and the EU all seeking compromise in order to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the White House has sent a formal notification to Congress under the War Powers Act of the airstrike that killed Soleimani at the Baghdad airport on Friday, according to a senior official.

The notification was classified and it was not known if a public version would be made available, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the report "suggests Congress and the American people are being left in the dark about our national security.''

Military personnel carry the casket of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani upon arrival at Ahvaz International Airport in Tehran on January 5, 2020
Soleimani's body was returned to Iran on SundayImage: AFP/Fars/H. Mersadi

Soleimani's funeral on Tuesday

On Sunday, Soleimani's body was returned to Iran, according to the Islamic country's IRIB news agency.

The body was reportedly flown to the city of Ahvaz from Iraq, as IRIB posted a video of a casket wrapped in an Iranian flag being unloaded from a military plane. State television broadcast a live program showing thousands of mourners dressed in black in the southwestern city.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is expected to lead a prayer ceremony for Soleimani at Tehran University on Monday, whereas the general's funeral will be held in his hometown Kerman on Tuesday.

shs, jsi/cmk (AFP, dpa, AP)

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