Hundreds of thousands of Iranians thronged Tehran’s streets on Monday for the funeral of Major General Qassem Soleimani, killed by a US drone strike last week, and his daughter said his death would bring a “dark day” for the US.
“Crazy Trump, don’t think that everything is over with my father’s martyrdom,” Zeinab Soleimani said in an address broadcast on state television.
US President Donald Trump had ordered Friday’s attack that killed the general, the architect of Iran’s drive to extend its influence across the region. Iran has promised to avenge his death.
The size of the crowds in Tehran, shown on television and which state media said numbered in the millions, mirrored the masses that gathered in 1989 for the funeral of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Soleimani was a national hero to many Iranians, even those who did not consider themselves devoted supporters of Iran’s clerical rulers.
In response to Iran’s warnings of retaliation, Trump has threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites, including cultural targets, if Tehran attacks Americans or US assets, deepening a crisis that has heightened fears of a new West Asia conflagration.
The coffins of Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was also killed in the strike, were passed across the heads of mourners chanting, “Death to America”.
Aerial footage showed crowds packed thoroughfares in central Tehran, a welcome show of national unity for the government after deadly protests in November.
One of Iran’s main regional goals — driving US forces out of neighbouring Iraq — came a step closer on Sunday when the Iraqi parliament backed a recommendation by the Prime Minister for all foreign troops to be ordered out.
“Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said.
Iraq’s rival Shia leaders, including ones opposed to Iranian influence, have united since Friday’s attack in calling for the expulsion of US troops. About 5,000 US military personnel are in Iraq, mostly acting as advisers.
Esmail Qaani, the new head of the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ unit in charge of foreign operations, said Iran would continue Soleimani’s path.
Soleimani built up Iran’s network of proxy regional forces, creating a crescent of influence stretching from Lebanon through Syria and Iraq to Iran. Allies also include Palestinian and Yemeni groups.
Prayers at Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran, which will later move to his southern home city of Kerman, were led by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wept as he spoke. Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran behind Khamenei.
Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, made his first trip to Iran since taking up his role in 2017 in order to attend.
“Resistance against the Zionist project on the land of Palestine will not stop, and resistance against the American dominance will not be broken and will not be weakened,” Haniyeh said, referring to Israel. Adding to tensions, Iran said it was taking another step back from commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with six powers.