Iran warns of severe revenge as it marks Qassem Suleimani assassination

Top officials attend event in Tehran ahead of first anniversary of US drone strike on January 3

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Iran stepped up warnings of retaliation against the United States on Friday as it held a commemoration for Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani in the run-up to the first anniversary of his death in a US drone strike.

"They will witness a severe revenge. What has come so far has only been glimpses" of it, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi told a gathering at Tehran University.

Suleimani, who led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force overseeing Iran's proxy militias in the region, was killed when missiles launched by US drones struck his convoy as it left Baghdad airport on January 3 last year. Top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis was also killed in the strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.

"Do not presume that someone, as the president of America, who appeared as a murderer or ordered a murder, may be immune from justice being carried out. Never," Mr Raisi said.

"Those who had a role in this assassination and crime will not be safe on Earth."

The televised event at Tehran University was attended by Iranian officials including Revolutionary Guard chief Hossein Salami and speakers included representatives from allied regional countries and forces, namely Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

A separate event is expected to be held in the coming days in Kerman, Suleimani's hometown, where he is buried.

Top Iranian authorities, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that all those involved in Suleimani's killing would face retribution.

Days after the assassination, Iran launched a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases where US and other coalition troops were stationed in what its leaders called a slap, promising that "severe revenge" would follow.

Suleimani's successor, Esmail Qaani, said at Friday's event that it could come from anywhere.

"From inside your own house, there may emerge someone who will retaliate for your crime,” he said.

“American mischief will not deter the Quds Force from carrying on its resistance path.”

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since 2018, when Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

The two sides twice came to the brink of war after June 2019, and especially after the killing of Suleimani.

Two American B-52 bombers flew over the Middle East on Wednesday for the second time in recent weeks, in what US officials said was a message of deterrence to Iran ahead of the first anniversary.

On Thursday, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused Mr Trump of attempting to fabricate a pretext to attack Iran, and said Tehran would defend itself forcefully.

Separately, a military adviser to Iran's supreme leader tweeted a warning to Mr Trump.

"I saw on the news that the Americans are on alert for fear of the revenge and have flown two B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf," Hossein Dehghan, a former defence minister, said on Twitter.

"All their military bases in the region are covered by our missiles. I advise the White House evictee [Trump] not to turn the New Year into mourning for Americans," he said.