President Donald Trump has warned Iran that the United States has 52 targets in sight which are “at a very high level and important to Iran and Iranian culture.” Trump lambasted Iran’s vow to avenge the killing of its top General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike on January 3.
In a tweet on January 4, the US president had a stern warning to Iran not to attempt any retaliation: “[…] Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..” The tweet continued: “….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some 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!”
Missiles fired near US embassy in Iraq
Hours after thousands had been mourning the death of Soleimani with a huge funeral procession held in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a projectile hit the Green Zone near the US embassy in Baghdad and several more were fired at Balad Air Base which houses US forces. Another source claims that two mortar rounds hit the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, also known as the International Zone of Baghdad, on January 4. Iraqi security sources say that nobody was injured in the attacks.
The US embassy in Baghdad and American troops stationed across the country have been facing rocket attacks in recent months, which are believed to be from Iranian-backed militants in Iraq.
Iran’s allies for potential retaliation
It has been reported that Iran could call upon its heavily armed allies located across the Middle East which are within striking distance of US forces and American allies, should it follow through with its vow for revenge.
A network that was developed over two decades by General Soleimani lists Iranian allies from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and the Gaza Strip:
- Iraq militias
The Shiite militias in Iraq have been trained and financed by Iran. These groups include Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataeb Hezbollah and the Badr Organization which had close ties to Soleimani.
Hezbollah was formed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s. It is the most effective armed group based in Lebanon, backed by Iran.
Based in Yemen, the Shiite rebels known as the Houthis are supported by Iran.
- Gaza militants
Tehran is said to provide military support to Palestinian-based Hamas’s armed wing.