The leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force stepped out of the shadows on Thursday to deliver a fiery speech against Donald Trump, warning the US president that if a war broke out Iran would “destroy all that you possess”.
General Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary special forces, is considered of the most powerful figures in the Middle East and commands Iran’s operations in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.
The general has been photographed on battlefields from Mosul to Aleppo and his image is plastered on billboards across Iran but he speaks only rarely in public.
On Thursday he delivered a blistering response to Mr Trump’s tweet on Monday, when the US president warned Iran that if it threatened America it would face “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered”.
“You know that this war will destroy all that you possess,” Gen Soleimani responded in a speech in the central city of Hamedan.
“You will start this war but we will be the ones to impose its end. Therefore you have to be careful about insulting the Iranian people and the president of our Republic.”
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
He told Mr Trump: “You know our power in the region and our capabilities in asymmetric war. We will act and we will work…We are near you, where you can't even imagine."
Gen Soleimani also taunted America over its military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and said US troops had to be supplied with "adult diapers".
Mr Trump’s tweet had been aimed at Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, but Gen Soleimani told the US president to address him and not Mr Rouhani.
"As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to Trump's threats. If he wants to use the language of threat, he should talk to me, not to the president,” he said.
Gen Soleimani also denounced Mr Trump for using the language of “nightclubs and gambling halls”.
US and Iranian leaders have been trading insults and threats intensively over the last week.
Mr Rouhani said Monday that the US should understand “that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars”.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia suspended oil shipping through a strategic waterway near Yemen after two of its oil tankers were attacked by Houthi rebel forces, the Saudi government said.
Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said the Houthis had attacked the two tankers as they made their way through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a narrow 12-mile passage between Yemen and Djibouti.
The strait is a key transit route for oil and other shipping line which leads up the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. Saudi Arabia said one ship was slightly damaged in the attack but there was no oil spillage.
The Bab al-Mandab is less important the Straits of Hormuz, another narrow passage in the Persian Gulf through which handles around 20 per cent of the world’s oil exports.
Oil markets did not react strongly to the Saudi decision. Nonetheless, a prolonged halt to Saudi oil shipments through Bab al-Mandab would mean tankers going around Africa instead of using the Suez Canal, which could lead to rising oil prices.
Kuwait said it was also considering suspending oil shipments through the straits.
The Houthis, who are aligned with Iran, have attacked several international ships in the Red Sea.
The US and UK have supported Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen partly out of fear that Iran could use the Houthis as proxies for disrupting international shipping in the event of a war.
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