Multiple days of mourning for Shia in Iraq and Iran over the death of Iran's most celebrated elite general, Qasem Soleimani, began on Saturday as his funeral procession began to make its way through the streets of Baghdad. Also being mourned is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was head of Iran's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah.
The procession passed near the Green Zone, where the US Embassy and other diplomatic compounds are located, while thousands chanted "Death to America" and "America is the Great Satan!"
The procession is now making its way south to the Shia Muslim holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, after which Soleimani's body will be returned to Iran for a funeral and burial in his home town of Kerman in the country's southeast. A video from helicopter showed a massive number of Iranian mourners in Ahvaz, where hundreds of thousands of people appeared to have been gathered.
Video from helicopter said to show mass gathering of Iranian mourners for Qassem Suleimani in Ahvaz, the capital of a province that has since late 2017 been a focal point of anti-regime protests pic.twitter.com/CH2pwedcBv— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) January 5, 2020
The Revolutionary Guard announced earlier that his funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, amid three days of national mourning ceremonies across the Islamic Republic mandated by the Ayatollah.
Events in Baghdad quickly turned to scenes of protesting American troop presence in the country, which included mourners burning American and Israeli flags. One international report summarized the chaotic scenes of the procession as follows:
Mourners in the Iraqi capital today carried posters of Soleimani and flags of Muhandis's Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah militia, which has committed brazen attacks against US bases in recent months, climaxing with a siege of the US embassy on Tuesday.
The procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad, one of the most revered in Shia Islam before crowds headed south to a point near the Green Zone, the high-security district home to government offices and foreign embassies, including America's.
Meanwhile thousands of angry demonstrators stood outside the UN offices in Iran's capital, demanding retribution for the killing of Soleimani.
Next, Soleimani’s body is expected to arrive in Tehran at some point on Saturday nigh, after which a ceremony will be held at Imam Reza’s shrine.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed that Americans will "feel the impact" of their "criminal act... for years ahead".
Indeed it appears Washington is taking the prospect for "severe" retaliation seriously given additional troops, possibly number in the thousands, have been deployed to Kuwait and other regional bases.
It is likely that the multiple days of mourning for Soleimani's funeral will be the calm before the storm, as we could possibly see "revenge attacks" begin as early as next week.