Senior Iranian cleric Ali Shirazi, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, said on the Houthi AlMasirah television channel in Yemen that Iran shot missiles at bases where U.S. forces are stationed in Iraq as the “beginning” to a broader attack against U.S. targets in the region. “So far, we have not yet avenged the death of Qasem Soleimani and his colleagues [including Abu Mahdi al-Mohandas] … Iran does not have to pursue revenge of Soleimani’s death alone; the axis of resistance [all the organizations in the region supported by the al-Quds Force] will continue our revenge with even more fervor.”1
AlMasirah’s commentary stated, “After the Iranian response to the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani and Al-Mohandas, the region has entered a new stage of the direct confrontation between Iran and its allies and the Americans and their allies in the Middle East…
The capabilities of Iran and the axis of the resistance in the region have grown, and the Iranian military capabilities are now able to harm and destroy American bases, in addition to what missiles of its allies in the region could inflict on American interests.” Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi was quoted as saying that the Yemeni people would stand by Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and all countries that are subject to the American attack.2
Various media outlets supportive of Iran described the Iranian response to the assassination of Soleimani as a two-stage attack – the first stage being a symbolic attack against the United States, and the second stage being an attack at the regional level. These attacks will be carried out by the “axis of resistance” aimed at ending U.S. presence in the region. It should be emphasized that various Iranian speakers have emphasized the goal of removing the United States from the region, as have prominent figures from the resistance axis, including Houthi leaders from Yemen and Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Nasrallah in two speeches since the Soleimani’s assassination. The speeches praised the Quds Force and detailed their close personal ties with Soleimani (“one of ours”).
Nasrallah called Soleimani on January 12, 2020, “A true jihadist, cast in the mold of Islam and by Khomeini’s religious seminary,” and whose name “revives the culture of resistance and jihad.” Nasrallah emphasized that this “crime places the United States as Iran’s chief enemy, the great Satan, the one behind the oppression, aggression, corruption, hegemony, injustice, and arrogance the world over, and it needs to understand and absorb … Israel is but a tool, an American base planted in the region.” He said the Iranian response in the attack on the Iraqi bases sent a strong message to Israel – not to use the Israeli Air Force to attack Iran, as “this is what awaits you if you attack or threaten Iran.”
Nasrallah added that the response to Soleimani’s assassination is not a single act: “It is a journey … a long journey that will end with the removal of U.S. presence from the region” – the Middle East, or in the words of Khamenei, “West Asia” –because Iraq will be the first country from which the Americans will be expelled. Nasrallah said that the choice for America was whether American soldiers would return standing up or lying down [dead].
For Iran, it would be more convenient to encourage the axis of resistance groups to attack American bases and interests in the region. Iran does not seek to take the actions itself in order to avoid further escalation of tensions with the United States and to maintain a certain degree of plausible deniability,
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