Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday appointed Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani as head of the Quds Forces, Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm, after the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani, who had been leading the defence agency since 1998, was killed in a US airstrike on Baghdad airport on Friday. The force’s programme "will be unchanged from the time of his predecessor," Khamenei said in a statement published by state media.
Ghaani has reportedly served as Soleimani's deputy since the latter took over as the head of the elite force which undertakes Iranian missions in other countries.
Newsweek reported that Ghaani previously cautioned US president Donald Trump against conflict with Iran. "We are not a war-mongering country. But any military action against Iran will be regretted," he said in 2017, according to the report, adding, "Trump's threats against Iran will damage America. We have buried many like Trump and know how to fight against America."
The killing of Soleimani marks a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Iran, which has careened from one crisis to another since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.
Khamenei also warned that a "harsh retaliation is waiting" for the US after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the "international face of resistance." Khamenei declared three days of public mourning for the general’s death.
The killing, and any forceful retaliation by Iran, could ignite a conflict that engulfs the whole region, endangering US troops in Iraq, Syria, and beyond. Over the last two decades, Soleimani had assembled a network of heavily armed allies stretching all the way to southern Lebanon, on Israel’s doorstep.
However, the killing may itself act as a deterrent, with fears of an all-out war leading Iran and its allies to delay or restrain any potential response.
Oil prices surged on news of the killing and markets were mixed.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 03, 2020 17:14:11 IST