The eulogist at the funeral procession for General Qassem Soleimani placed an $80 million bounty on President Donald Trump’s head on live state TV, according to Al Arabiya. However, contrary to some reports, the government of Iran itself did not place a bounty on Trump’s head.
Two sites that have reported on the bounty: Bild, a German news site and Al Arabiya English, a Saudi Arabian platform.
Al Arabiya reported on January 5, 2020 that “the eulogist at the funeral procession of prominent Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iran put an 80-million-dollar prize on US President Donald Trump’s head on live state TV.” The eulogist was not named.
“We are 80 million Iranians, if each one of us puts aside one American dollar, we will have 80 million American dollars, and we will reward anyone who brings us [Trump]’s head with that amount,” he said before a crowd in the city of Mashhad, according to Al Arabiya, which added that the “funeral procession was being broadcast live on Iran’s Channel One as the eulogist made his proposal.”
According to the Financial Times, another speaker in Mashhad told the massive crowds, “We shall see the uprooting of the US in the region. You crazy, yellow-haired man [Trump]! Listen carefully! ‘Down with the US’ . . . You Israelis! We will send you death . . . every single drop of our tears will turn into a missile into your land.”
American comedian George Lopez caused controversy when his verified Instagram page commented, “We’ll do it for half,” on an Instagram post by Chicano World Star, which stated that “Iran” had placed the bounty on Trump’s head. It has not been proven that the eulogist was associated with or speaking on behalf of the Iranian government. People on Twitter were quick to criticize Lopez’s remark.
Bild reported that “State television announced during the broadcast of a memorial service for the killed terror general Ghassem Soleimani that $80 million bounty would be put on US President Donald Trump. The one who kills him should receive this amount.” However, this is a little misleading because it was the eulogist who made that announcement not state TV. It was, however, being broadcast on state TV.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Comments Were Made During a Funeral Procession That Traveled Through Different Cities
Bild shared the above video with its story on the bounty.
It’s not like the comments occurred at one funeral event, though. Soleimani’s body is being moved through different cities on its way to Tehran. However, The Times of Israel reported that the Iranian government had canceled a Tehran ceremony to honor Soleimani because so many mourners turned out in Mashhad. Mourners also flooded the streets of Ahvaz, and, in Mashhad, some chanted to the US, “Be afraid of your own shadow,” according to Times of Israel, adding that marchers chanted “Death to America.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani,” the Miami Herald reported. Radio Farda reported that Mashhad is “the second-largest Iranian city and a bastion of conservatism and pro-government political groups.” The Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was not expected to officiate until the procession reached Tehran, the site reported.
According to the Financial Times, the four-day funeral started in Iraq and will take Soleimani’s body “to five of the holiest sites for Shia Muslims — four of which are in Iraq and one in Mashhad.”
M. Hanif Jazayeri, who identifies himself as a “news editor” affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, wrote on Twitter, “OMG! Iran’s regime just announced an $80 million bounty for anyone who brings the head of @realDonaldTrump for killing Soleimani. PS: Iran’s ppl however are overjoyed at Soleimani’s death. As the #IranProtests have shown, they long for an end to the mullahs’ tyranny #FreeIran2020.” However, again, Al-Arabiya says the comments were made by the unidentified eulogist, not an official statement from the Iranian regime.
Several British tabloids then picked up the report.
“Iranian state television: $80 million equivalent to President Donald Trump’s head,” wrote Dr. Zaid Abdul Wahab in Arabic on Twitter. His Twitter bio says he’s a “journalist and academic in international relations and political science, member of the scientific body of the Academy of International Relations.”
Soleimani was an Iranian Major-General, head of the elite, powerful Quds force and architect of Iran’s strategy throughout the Middle East. He was killed by an U.S. air strike ordered by Trump. The death of the powerful general marks what many experts are calling a potential turning point in the Middle East that is likely to generate retaliation from Iran against the United States.
Iran said on January 5 that it will no longer abide by a 2015 nuclear deal.
This was President Trump’s first response when news of Soleimani’s death broke:
Trump, as Iran’s rhetoric escalated after the Soleimani death, wrote on Twitter, “Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have 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!”
He later elaborated, writing, “General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
Soleimani’s body was identified by his ring. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a “harsh retaliation is waiting” in response.
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the Department of Defense statement read. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
The statement said that Soleimani and his Quds force “were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months — including the attack on December 27th — culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”
The statement concluded that the United States air strike “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
However, Congressional response broke down quickly along partisan lines, with some Republicans generally applauding the assassination and Democrats, while indicating that they were no fans of Soleimani, questioning what the president’s plan is if further escalation results.
How powerful was Soleimani? In a 2013 profile story, The New Yorker called Soleimani the “shadow commander” who was “reshaping the Middle East” and “directing Assad’s war in Syria.” At that time, the magazine described the Iranian general as “a small man of fifty-six, with silver hair, a close-cropped beard, and a look of intense self-containment.” The Washington Post dubbed Soleimani Iran’s “most revered military leader.”
According to Haaretz, Soleimani “was considered one of the people closest to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.” He was 61, a father of 5, a former construction worker, and not a religious scholar, Haaretz reports, adding that he ran the Quds force since 1998.
A 2018 article by Ali Soufan for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point called him “one of Iran’s most popular living people.” His influence was felt throughout the Middle East, as he orchestrated Iran’s strategies in Syria, Iraq and other countries, Soufan wrote.
The New Yorker article says that Soleimani has the blood of American soldiers on his hands; he was known for “assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq.” The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Suleimani.
Tensions were already escalating with the Iran-backed militia attacks on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Those attacks followed U.S. air raids “against Kataib Hezbollah militia bases” to avenge the death of a U.S. contractor in missile attacks in northern Iraq, according to Jerusalem Post. In contrast, the Obama administration had signed a nuclear deal with Iran.
In 2008, Soleimani texted then U.S. military commander David Petraeus that “he controlled Iran’s policy in Iraq and was outfoxing the Americans,” Daily Beast reports.
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