Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Qassem Soleimani. (Photo: IRNA)
(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s foreign minister demurred, twice, when asked at the weekend whether the “revenge” for the killing at President Trump’s orders of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani was now over.
In an appearance at the Munich Security Conference, Javad Zarif suggested that when revenge does occur, it will be taken by people angered by U.S. policies, acting at their own initiative, not prodded to do so by Tehran.
Asked whether it was correct that there would be “no more revenge” following the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Jan. 7 firing of rockets at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops, Zarif said, “that’s not correct.”
He disputed that his message immediately after the missile barrage – to the effect that Iran’s response was “concluded” – contradicted warnings of more revenge, given by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and IRGC commanders.
“Just to be clear,” asked BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet, moderating the discussion. “The revenge of the Islamic Republic of Iran is over?”
“No,” Zarif declared.
“You see, we’re, we’re not a revengeful country,” he continued. “We said we’ll take a military action against a military operation. Now, killing of Soleimani and others – they killed an Iraqi government official and an Iraqi military leader – that has consequences from the population. We don’t control them.”
“The United States conducts operations, and wants to be immune from the consequences,” Zarif said. “That doesn’t happen.”
Broadening his argument, he pointed to the unveiling late last month of Trump’s vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“You cannot blame us that the United States, the president of the United States, just reveals the so-called ‘deal from the century,’ basically enraging the entire Arab world and the Palestinian population,” said Zarif. “If there is violence in response to the ‘deal of the century,’ Iran is not responsible for that.”
“If the United States kills an Iraqi commander and there are responses, if the United States kills 25 Iraqi people, and there are responses from the Iraqis, it doesn’t have to be Iran,” he said.
Iraqis, Zarif added, “don’t need an Iran to tell them to respond.”
‘Not our proxies’
Soleimani was killed in a Jan. 3 U.S. airstrike on a vehicle near Baghdad airport. Trump in his State of the Union speech called him “the world’s top terrorist.”
Zarif argued that people angered by and responding to his death are not Iranian “proxies.”
“Please stop using that word,” he said. “These are not our proxies. These are human beings who are tired of bullying, who are tired of lawlessness, who want to have dignity.”
The Qods Force is the Iranian regime’s link to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and Iraqi Shi’ite militias like Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. troops with Qods Force help during the Iraq War.
The “Iraqi commander” Zarif referred to as having been killed in the Soleimani airstrike was a top KH leader, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. The “25 Iraqi people” Zarif said had been killed by the U.S. were KH militiamen killed in U.S. airstrikes in late December on five militia bases in Iraq and Syria, in retaliation for a rocket attack on an Iraqi base where an American civilian contractor was killed.
And despite Zarif’s protestations that “if there is violence in response to [Trump’s Mideast peace plan] Iran is not responsible for that,” Khamenei has both rejected the plan and pledged the regime’s ongoing support for Palestinian terrorist groups in their “resistance” to and “selfless jihad” against Israel and the U.S.
Zarif said he and Soleimani had been “good friends.” (He told an Arabic TV station recently that he and Soleimani held weekly meetings.)
He called the killing of the Qods Force chief a “cowardly attack” and an “act of terror.”
Zarif also charged that Trump was being misled by poor advisers, who have wrongly convinced him that a policy of “maximum pressure” would bring down the regime. He named former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and also alluded to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo’s participation in the Munich Security Conference came in a form of a speech earlier in the day, in which he challenged the notion that the West is in decline.
The speech was peppered by references to Iran – along with China, Russia, and others.
It also included an apparent indirect swipe at Zarif, who along with President Hassan Rouhani is viewed in some quarters as a “moderate.”
“When so-called Iranian moderates play the victim,” Pompeo told his mostly European audience, “remember their assassination and terror campaigns against innocent Iranian civilians, and right here on European soil itself.”