Iran Says Considering 13 'Revenge Scenarios' After U.S. Strike

The New York Times reported Monday that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, personally weighed in on how Iran should respond - insisting Iran directly retaliate for the killing

Protesters demonstrate over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, January 4, 2020.
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

>> Update: Iran launches over a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq

Iran has been considering 13 "revenge scenarios" in retaliation for a U.S. strike that killed a top Iranian commander in Iraqi, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council said on Tuesday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"The Americans should know that until now 13 revenge scenarios have been discussed in the council and even if there is consensus on the weakest scenario carrying it out can be a historic nightmare for the Americans," Ali Shamkhani said.

Read more: A smokescreen of threats as Iran grapples to avenge its honor | Analysis

The New York Times reported Monday that Iran's Supreme Leader  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally weighed in on how Iran should respond – insisting Iran directly retaliate for the killing.

The report said, "in a rare appearance at a meeting of the government’s National Security Council" hours after the killing, Khamenei said the response "must be a direct and proportional attack on American interests" and be "openly carried out by Iranian forces themselves." The reported cited "three Iranians familiar with the meeting."

Read more: Trump ends U.S. restraint with Soleimani assassination, and Iran won't hold back ■ Soleimani's mistake and Netanyahu's gain ■ To avert war with Iran, Trump will need all the strong nerves and sophistication he sorely lacks

The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened on Tuesday to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of “Death to Israel!”

Hossein Salami made the pledge before a crowd of thousands gathered in a central square in Kerman, the hometown of the slain Gen. Qassem Soleimani. His vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials — from Khamenei to others — as well as supporters across the Islamic Republic, demanding retaliation against America for a slaying that’s drastically raised tensions across the Middle East

The death of Soleimani, who built up Tehran's network of proxy forces across the region, has prompted mass mourning in Iran and led to renewed Iranian threats to drive U.S. troops from Iraq, where Tehran has vied with Washington for influence.

U.S. and Iranian warnings of new strikes and retaliation have stoked concerns about a broader Middle East conflict and led to calls in the U.S. Congress for legislation to stop U.S. President Donald Trump going to war with Iran.

"We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge," the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Hossein Salami told tens of thousands of mourners in Soleimani's hometown of Kerman, many of them chanting "Death to America" and waving the Iranian flag.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military commanders have said Iranian retaliation for the U.S. action would match the scale of Soleimani's killing but that it would be at a time and place of Tehran's choosing.

"The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more dangerous to the enemy than Qassem Soleimani," Salami said, after the general's body ended a tour of Iraqi and Iranian cities following his death on Friday that clogged streets with mourners.

Reuters and other media reported on Monday that the U.S. military had sent a letter to Iraqi officials informing them that American troops would be repositioned in preparation to leave, drawing a swift denial from the Pentagon.

"There's been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters. "I don't know what that letter is."

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter was a "poorly worded" draft document meant only to underscore increased movement by U.S. forces.

The letter, addressed to the Iraqi Defence Ministry's Combined Joint Operations and confirmed as authentic by an Iraqi military source, had caused confusion about the future of the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, where there has been a U.S. military presence since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

Iran's long-repeated demand for U.S. forces to withdraw had gained traction on Sunday when Iraq's parliament, dominated by lawmakers representing Muslim Shi'ite groups, passed a resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country.

Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad on Monday that both sides needed to work together to implement the parliamentary resolution, the premier's office said, without giving a timeframe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report