Iranian General Says U.S. Should Leave Middle East or Start Sending Coffins for American Troops

A senior commander within Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that U.S. forces must leave the Middle East or risk deadly retailiation to the assassination of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani,

Soleimani—the influential commander of the Quds Force and director of the IRGC's foreign military and covert operations—was killed in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad airport in Iraq on Thursday evening.

The general was one of the most powerful figures in Iran, and was credited with driving the country's campaign of influence across the Middle East. From Yemen to Lebanon, Tehran's regional strategy was said to have been formulated by the 62-year-old. Reports indicate he was killed soon after he arrived in Iraq from either Syria or Lebanon.

His killing marks a stunning escalation in the U.S.-Iranian conflict and has prompted threats of fierce retaliation against Americans and American interests in the Middle East.

Among those vowing revenge was General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a senior officer within the IRGC and the coordinating deputy to the organization's commander. According to the Associated Press, Naghdi said that "the White House must leave the region today or it must go to the market to order caskets for soldiers."

He added, "We don't want bloodshed. They have to choose by themselves."

Other Iranian lawmakers and clerics issued similar warnings, illustrating the anger at the unprecedented U.S. decision to assassinate such a senior figure.

Politician and cleric Mojtaba Zolnouri told state television, "When the U.S. is killing Iranian forces outside of Iran, the U.S. must see its troops killed at its bases in the region."

Senior Iranian officials have also warned that the country will take revenge against the U.S. and its interests.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that a "harsh retaliation" awaits Americans, while President Hassan Rouhani said that "Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge."

A meeting of Iran's National Security Council has been convened to discuss the assassination and Tehran's response. Body spokesperson Keyvan Khosravi said the act was "criminal."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the U.S. remained committed to de-escalation, describing Soleimani's assassination as "defensive action."

President Donald Trump directly ordered the operation, according to the Pentagon. He remains at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and on Thursday after the operation tweeted an image of an American flag.

Iran, US, middle east, troops, Qassem Soleimani
Iranians burn a U.S. flag during a demonstration against America in Tehran, Iran, on January 3, 2020 following the killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty