By our Correspondent in Tehran
The sea of humanity came from all directions. The crowds stretched as far back into the horizon as the eye could see.
They came to participate in the funeral prayers for General Qasem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and their companions that were martyred in a US drone strike in the early hours of Friday January 3 outside Baghdad International Airport.
The Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei led the funeral prayers at Tehran University for the martyrs and broke down several times during the prayer today.
Seeing their leader’s grief over the loss of such a brilliant figure in the fight against imperialism, Zionism and terrorism (ISIS), the crowd also wept uncontrollably.
All of Iran’s top leaders whether civilian or military were there. The successor to the martyr Qasem Soleimani, of the Quds Force, General Esmail Gha’ani was also present.
Also present at the funeral prayers was Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Islamic Resistance movement Hamas in Palestine. He called the martyr Soleimani the son of al-Quds because of his support for the Palestinian resistance movement against Zionism.
From Engelab Square in central Tehran, the crowds surged toward Azadi Tower near the old airport to the west.
Chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," they carried portraits of their beloved hero who has become even more popular in death than he was when alive.
There were calls for revenge for the dastardly crime the US has perpetrated.
The Rahbar himself had said there would be “harsh retaliation” for the criminals that carried out this murderous act in violation of international law and the UN Charter.
“His [General Soleimani’s] departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs… on their hands,” he said in a statement.
Not since the passing away of Imam Khomeini in June 1989 has Tehran—indeed the whole of Iran—witnessed such massive crowds for any personality.
In an interview with CNN on January 5, Iran’s former Defence Minister General Hossein Dehghan said Iran will retaliate against US military targets in the region. Iran will not do so through its allies, but will exact revenge itself.
Reports circulating in Tehran say that the US has sent at least three messages through back channels asking that Iran’s retaliation should be “proportional” and that it “did not want to escalate”.
Sensing the anger in Tehran, the US can expect major blows.
Criminal minded as Donald Trump is, he threatened to attack 52 targets including cultural sites if Iran retaliated harshly.
He also said the US would not withdraw its forces from Iraq unless Baghdad paid billions in compensation.
He would clearly prefer to see US soldiers coming in body bags. Hizbullah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has said as much pointing out that US targets are now fair game.
From Tehran, the general’s remains will be taken to the holy city of Qom before being flown to his hometown of Kerman where another massive funeral prayer is scheduled for Tuesday January 7.
On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people paid respects to the martyrs in the streets of Baghdad. The bodies were then flown to Ahvaz where a procession stretched more than 30 kms.
Similar crowds had gathered in Mashhad.
If Trump thought he could deflect public attention from his impeachment travails, he is mistaken.
He may have even blown his chances of re-election despite Americans being fed on a diet of jingoism.