TEHERAN • Weeping amid wails from a sea of mourners, Iran's Supreme Leader yesterday prayed over the remains of a top Iranian general killed in a US air strike in Baghdad, an attack that has drastically raised tensions between Teheran and Washington.
The procession for Iranian Revolutionary Guard Major-General Qassem Soleimani drew a crowd of mourners and followers, said by police to be in the millions, in Teheran, where Maj-Gen Soleimani's replacement vowed to take revenge for his killing.
"Oh Allah, they are in need of your mercy, and you are exalted above punishing your servants," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said during the mass prayer as he stood over the flag-draped casket.
Maj-Gen Soleimani's successor, Maj-Gen Esmail Ghaani, stood near Ayatollah Khamenei's side, as did Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other top leaders.
Teheran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the killing, while in Iraq, Parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.
The developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb, set off a proxy or military attack launched by Teheran against America and enable the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.
Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump is confident he could still renegotiate a new nuclear deal with Teheran, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said yesterday.
Asked if Mr Trump believes he can still get Iran to renegotiate a new nuclear agreement, Ms Conway told reporters at the White House: "He said he is open. If Iran wants to start behaving like a normal country... sure, absolutely."
A short while later, Mr Trump tweeted: "Iran will never have a nuclear weapon!"
Maj-Gen Soleimani's daughter Zeinab directly threatened an attack on the US military in the Middle East, while speaking to a crowd that stretched as far as the eye could see down major thoroughfares in Iran's capital.
"The families of the American soldiers in western Asia... will spend their days waiting for the death of their children," she said to cheers.
Demonstrators burned Israeli and US flags, and carried flag-draped US coffins or effigies of Mr Trump. Some described Mr Trump himself as a legitimate target for Iran's revenge.
Maj-Gen Ghaani made his own threat in an interview with Iranian state television aired yesterday.
"God the Almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly actions will be taken," he said.
The head of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace programme, Brigadier-General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, suggested Iran's response would not stop with a single attack.
"Firing a couple of missiles, hitting a base or even killing Trump is not valuable enough to compensate for martyr Soleimani's blood," Brig-Gen Hajizadeh said on state TV.
"The only thing that can com-pensate for his blood is the complete removal of America from the region and taking away their evil from the oppressed people of the region."
ASSOCIATED PRESS, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS