President Donald Trump has vowed to increase drone strikes on Iran if Americans and their investments within or outside the United States are attacked.
Donald Trump on Saturday threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran retaliates to honor the death of an Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader. Tens of thousands of people marched in Iraq to mourn their deaths.
Showing no signs of seeking to ease tensions raised by the strike he ordered that killed Soleimani and Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport, Trump issued a stern threat to Iran on Twitter. The U.S. strike has raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.
“Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets,” Trump wrote in response to Soleimani’s death.
Trump said the United States has “targeted 52 Iranian sites” and that some were “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.”
“The USA wants no more threats!” Trump said, adding that the 52 targets represented the 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for 444 days after being seized at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
Trump did not identify the sites. The Pentagon referred questions about the matter to the White House, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Among the mourners in Iraq included many militiamen in uniform for whom Muhandis and Soleimani were heroes. They carried portraits of both men and plastered them on walls and armored personnel carriers in the procession. Chants of “Death to America” and “No No Israel” rang out.
On Saturday evening, a rocket fell inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy, another hit the nearby Jadriya neighborhood and two more rockets were fired at the Balad air base north of the city, but no one was killed, the Iraqi military said in a statement. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said Tehran would punish Americans “wherever they are in reach,” and raised the prospect of possible attacks on ships in the Gulf.
Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah militia warned Iraqi security forces to stay away from U.S. bases in Iraq, “by a distance not less than a thousand meters starting Sunday evening,” reported Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV, which is close to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Trump said on Friday that Soleimani had been plotting “imminent and sinister” attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. Democratic critics said the Republican president’s action was reckless and risked more bloodshed in a dangerous region.
With security worries rising after Friday’s strike, the NATO alliance and a separate U.S.-led mission suspended their programs to train Iraqi security and armed forces, officials said.
“The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount. We continue to take all precautions necessary,” acting NATO spokesman Dylan White said in a statement.
Soleimani was the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign legions. The attack took Washington and its allies, mainly Saudi Arabia and Israel, into uncharted territory in their confrontation with Iran and its proxy militias across the region.
France stepped up diplomatic initiatives on Saturday to ease tensions. French President Emmanuel Macron talked with Iraq President Barham Salih, Macron’s office said. Macron also spoke with the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.