IRAN will not let those behind the assassination of the country’s legendary anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani evade punishment.
‘We will not allow the martyr’s blood to go to waste and those who did it escape punishment,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a virtual news conference in Tehran on Monday.
The Islamic Republic has ceaselessly pursued this matter and will keep doing so through the international channels, he said.
‘This is not something that the Iranian government and the establishment could let go by. The US administration is accountable in this regard,’ the diplomat added.
Khatibzadeh said the United States committed a monumental strategic mistake by perpetrating the terrorist act.
‘We will not abandon this pursuit until we have taken all those who abetted this (atrocity) or were involved in it, to the altar of justice.’
General Soleimani was the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). He was admired as the Middle East’s most potent counter-terrorism combatant, with a unique charisma.
He was Iran’s lead military advisor helping Iraq and Syria defeat foreign-backed takfiri terrorists, chiefly Daesh, in late 2017.
He was assassinated in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3rd during an official visit, along with Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Hashd al-Sha’abi anti-terror force, and other companions when their convoy was hit.
Khatibzadeh said the Islamic Republic has registered more than five letters and official notes with the United Nations and used its diplomatic missions to introduce General Soleimani and the nature of his mission to the world.
The official said Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, denounced the assassination as an act of terrorism earlier this year – but only after Iran’s Foreign Ministry had presented the world body with a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding the terrorist act.
The UN says the US has put the world in unprecedented peril with its assassination of the senior Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani.
Tehran will follow up on its efforts in this area across international courts and tribunals, he added.
Apart from commanding the Quds Force, General Soleimani served as a ‘pillar of regional stability’ who contributed most to the realisation of peace and maintaining interaction with different leaders of the region, Khatibzadeh said.
The spokesman touched on General Soleimani’s famous ‘We are a nation of martyrdom’ remarks, saying extremism cannot be defeated unless through the courage and pure blood of those confronting it.
Khatibzadeh further warned the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump against any new adventurism, saying the US would bear responsibility for any act of mischief.
‘We are not looking for tension, but we would defend Iran’s national interests with all our might,’ he said, adding the Islamic Republic has given the message that it would hold ‘the US and other plotters’ responsible for any mischievous act against it.
Khatibzadeh said he hoped level heads would prevail at the White House over warmongering elements during the final days of the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, Iran will not hesitate to give a ‘strong and massive’ response to any Israeli submarine in the Persian Gulf, a lawmaker said on Monday, after the Washington Post claimed that Tel Aviv was sending one to the strategic waters.
‘Israel must know that our response to aggression against our national security will be strong and massive,’ spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Abolfazl Amouei said.
On Wednesday, the Post reported that an Israeli submarine had embarked for the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran and that Israel was preparing for a battle amid rising hostilities.
Speaking to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network, Amouei said, ‘Israel is looking for excuses to drag the region into a tension that creates chaos in the last days of the Trump presidency.’
Hidai Zilberman, an Israeli army spokesman, recently told Saudi Arabia’s Elaph news outlet that Israel was tracking Iranian movements around the region, and Israeli submarines were quietly ‘sailing everywhere’.
Earlier this month, the US military sent two B-52H bombers to the Middle East on a short-notice mission. It also moved the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Persian Gulf along with other warships.
US naval and air assets, meanwhile, conducted joint exercises with the Royal Saudi Air Force and Royal Saudi Navy in the Persian Gulf, the fifth such exercise this year.
The Politico website cited a military official as saying that the US military is on heightened alert and shoring up its forces in the Middle East.
General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), said, ‘We do not seek conflict, but we must remain postured and committed to respond to any contingency or in opposition to any aggression.’
The show of force comes just ahead of the first anniversary of the US assassination of General Soleimani, who was the head of Iran’s Quds Force.
Iran has pledged that its real retaliation has yet to come, after it hit two US military bases in Iraq with a volley of precision missiles on January 8th 2020 ‘to send a message’.
High-ranking Iranian officials have, in separate meetings with the visiting Syrian foreign minister, highlighted the destabilising role of Israel in the region and insisted that without the Zionist regime, the world will be a safer place.
Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy, has said all Iranian forces, including the IRGC Navy, are fully prepared to respond to any threat.
Tensions in the region rose to new heights after Mohsen Fakhraizadeh, a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist, was assassinated in Absard city north of Tehran on November 27.
The Islamic Republic has blamed Israel for the assassination, citing the regime’s history of assassinating Iran’s nuclear scientists, as well as Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s mentioning of Fakhrizadeh’s name at a press conference in 2018 as ‘a threat to be remembered’, and accusing Iran of developing a nuclear weapon.
Iran has also vowed to exact vengeance on the perpetrators at an appropriate time.
In his interview, Amouei said he was sending a clear message that if the Israeli submarine arrives in the Persian Gulf, ‘it would be an amazing target for us.’
The lawmaker also warned neighbouring Arab countries that bringing Israel too close to Iran’s borders might create problems for them.
He was making a reference to the countries that recently signed normalisation agreements with the Israeli regime brokered by the Trump administration.
So far, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have agreed to forge formal diplomatic relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia, which encourages Arab countries to normalise ties with the Israeli regime, is also expected to join in.
Iran has condemned the normalisation deals as a threat to its national security and regional peace.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a senior foreign policy advisor to the Iranian parliament speaker, last Thursday derided the deals as a ‘ridiculous show’, which will destabilise the entire region.
- Iran will produce one and a half million doses of a homegrown vaccine within the next 30 to 40 days, said the director of Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam on Monday after meeting with the researchers who produced the vaccine.
During the meeting, which took place on Sunday, Mohammad Mokhber said the production will reach 12 million doses per month in the next six months.
Iran reported the first cases of the coronavirus in mid-February, soon becoming a hub where the deadly virus rapidly spread, making the country one of the hardest-hit in the region.
So far, more than 1.2 million people in Iran have contracted the virus and over 54,000 have lost their lives. However, in recent weeks, with the imposition of tighter social restrictions, the new cases and deaths have dropped significantly.
Iran is also under illegal, inhumane sanctions imposed by the United States, which have hampered its access to medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, and complicated the process of importing vaccines from other countries. But the country is fairly optimistic about the production of local vaccines.
The health minister says Iran has managed to contain the pandemic in almost all provinces.
According to Mokhber, a plan to mass-produce the homemade vaccine is in final stages, and the production line is capable of producing some 120 to 150 million doses of the vaccine to cover the country’s needs.
The human trial of the vaccine will start in the next three days, he said. ‘To date, 60,000 people have volunteered and enrolled for a vaccine test, and 30,000 of them met the conditions,’ the official explained.
Of course, he continued, ‘in the first stage, we cannot accept more than 56 people, who must come from a variety of age, gender, region and ethnicity groups.’
In remarks on Sunday, Iran’s health minister said the country is capable of producing a coronavirus vaccine, calling on the researchers not to become disheartened and keep up their hard work.
‘We will prove to the entire world that our domestically-produced vaccine is much better than vaccines produced elsewhere across the globe,’ Saeed Namaki said.
Meanwhile, Iranian officials have assured people that attempts to produce domestic vaccines will in no way hamper efforts to import foreign brands.
President Hassan Rouhani has also assured people over vaccine supplies, saying last week that his administration is doing its utmost to deliver both domestic and foreign vaccine shots to people.
The country has moved neck-and-neck with the rest of the world, and even better than many countries, in trying to develop and manufacture an effective and safe vaccine for the disease, Rouhani said at a cabinet session last Wednesday.