If Iran decides to follow through on its vow of harsh retaliation for the killing of its top general, it can call upon heavily armed allies across the Middle East that are within easy striking distance of U.S. forces and American allies, including Israel.
It's a network that was developed over nearly two decades by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed along with senior Iraqi militants in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's international airport overnight on Friday. He enjoyed the fierce loyalty of tens of thousands of fighters in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and the Gaza Strip who received aid, arms and training from Tehran.
>> Top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani killed in U.S. airstrike in Iraq <<
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S. after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the “international face of resistance.”
Iran's Revolutionary Guards and anti-U.S. forces across the Muslim world will avenge the assassination of Soleimani, a Guards spokesman told Iranian state television on Friday.
"Soleimani's martyrdom will make Iran more decisive to resist America's expansionism and to defend our Islamic values," Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a statement on Friday. "With no doubt, Iran and other freedom-seeking countries in the region will take his revenge."
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said "A crushing revenge will be taken for Soleimani's unjust assassination … We will take revenge on all those involved and responsible for his assassination," according to state news agency IRNA.