A top U.S. diplomat threatened the Iranian general who succeeded slain Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, telling Asharq al-Awsat newspaper Thursday that he “will meet the same fate” if he kills Americans.
Gen. Esmail Ghaani became the new commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force after the former commander was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
The killing of the powerful and feared general led Iran to retaliate with a missile strike on US and coalition forces in Iraq. There were no deaths from the attack, but tensions persist as the Trump administration maintains its pressure campaign while Iran violates the nuclear deal.
During Soleimani’s three-day funeral, Ghaani said that “we promise to continue down martyr Soleimani’s path as firmly as before with help of God,” adding that the aim is “to get rid of America from the region.”
“If [Ghaani] follows a similar path of killing Americans, he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, told Asharq al-Awsat, an Arabic language newspaper. “The president has made clear … that any attacks against American personnel or interests in the region will be met with a decisive response.”
“This is not a new threat,” Hook said. “The president has always said that he will act decisively in defense of American interests. And I think the [Iranian] regime now understands that they cannot attack America at will and expect to get away with it.”
“We will,” he added, “hold the regime and its proxies accountable for any attacks on Americans, or on American interests in the region.”
A rocket attack carried out by Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, in late December killed a U.S. civilian contractor and wounded several American service members. The U.S. retaliated by bombing militia positions, which in turn triggered a militia-led assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Lawyers and politicians have continued debating whether the Trump administration had legal justification to kill Soleimani, a dramatic escalation that could have ignited a full-scale war.
The Department of Defense, in a statement following Soleimani’s death, said that the Iranian general had orchestrated both the rocket attack and the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Baghdad. The Pentagon further argued that “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
DoD said that he was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members,” adding that the U.S. drone strike that killed the general “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”