In what many middle east experts are calling an "ominous" signal to the west following the assassination of the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani, a red flag has been hoisted over the holy mosque of Jamkaran in Qom, Iran's holiest city.
The flag is almost always blue, but according to old Iranian traditions in ancient wars red flags were raised when the enemy commits murder and will remain red until revenge is complete.
Al Manar TV reports that the red flag was raised as speakers in the mosque called: “O Allah, hasten your custodian reappearance,” referring to the reappearance of Imam Al-Mahdi.
The flying of the so-called "flag of jidah" is particularly noteworthy given Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei comments that Soleimani was now a "worldwide resistance icon," and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah described Soleimani as the "master of Resistance Axis martyrs," stressing that avenging him and the other martyrs is a duty of all resistance mujahidin around the world.
Meanwhile, AP reports that thousands of mourners chanting “America is the Great Satan” marched in a funeral procession Saturday through Baghdad, a day before the top Iranian commander will be laid to rest in Iran.
The mourners, mostly men in black military fatigues, carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani. They were also mourning Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior Iraqi militia commander who was killed in the same strike.
The mourners, many of them in tears, chanted:
“No, No, America,” and “Death to America, death to Israel.”
Mohammed Fadl, a mourner dressed in black, said the funeral is an expression of loyalty to the slain leaders.
“It is a painful strike, but it will not shake us,” he said.
Hadi al-Amiri, who heads a large parliamentary bloc and is expected to replace al-Muhandis as deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed militias, was among those paying their final respects.
“Rest assured,” he said before al-Muhandis’ coffin in a video circulated on social media.
“The price of your pure blood will be the exit of U.S. forces from Iraq forever.”
The gates to Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, were closed. The U.S. has ordered all citizens to leave Iraq and closed its embassy in Baghdad. Britain and France also warned their citizens to avoid or strictly limit travel in Iraq.
Predicting what happens next is near impossible but this thread from Politico's Rym Momtaz is as good as we have seen...
1/ Why did Iran militarily escalate in the Gulf lately? Shooting down a US drone, seizing tankers, bombing Saudi oil infrastructure? It wanted to internationalise the conflict. The Strait of Hormuz is where most of the world's shipping transits. The US chose not to go there.
2/ US also held its own line: a US person killed meant retaliation. It targeted the militia that did the attack. It was reciprocal, but also punitive to send a message. Iran-backed militia escalated against US embassy. US managed the attack, didn't blow everything up.
3/ US responded to embassy attack, and many lower level attacks by Iranian-backed militias in run-up, by killing, in Iraq, the head of all Iranian-backed anything #Soleimani. US may have just restored some escalation dominance. Whether it's part of cogent strategy is different Qu
4/ Real US reckless action or declaration of war wld have been attacking Iranian soil. This admin determined that the cost of tolerating Soleimani alive had now exceeded the benefits of not killing him. We must wait and see whether that was the right call, no one knows today.
5/ The most important part of Soleimani's killing, isn't his killing (as big as that is), it is the deep US intelligence penetration around Iran's most important military leader that it revealed. Signals and human intel. This is what is going to spook the Iranian camp the longest.
6/ Why did US claim the #Soleimani kill, instead of following the Israeli ambiguity playbook? US and Israel have different roles and capacities. The US is the mightiest military power around, owning attacks cld be part of deterrence, showing force, restoring escalation dominance.
7/ What happens next: let's be clear, no one knows for sure, even those who will decide some of the next steps.
The Iranian regime is not suicidal, it is strategic, calculating (even if it miscalculates sometimes), so likelihood of an all-out direct US-Iran war is low.
8/ Khamenei promised response, it must be strong enough to save face internally, for a regime already strained + facing popular dissent, and also be calibrated to avoid provoking a US response inside Iran. Iran response will show whether deterrence restored.
9/ The myth of invincibility that Iran built around Soleimani was a huge recruitment tool, it may also now turn out to be a double-edged sword. How does its most valiant warrior, its most effective US challenger, get picked off so precisely by the US?
10/ Concern for US military, diplo personnel, and citizens, in the region is legit. But allowing it to dictate policy plays into Iran's hands which weaponises Western sensitivity to human loss, and war weariness, to further destabilise the region unchecked.
11/ There are many so-called anti-imperialists who always criticise Western intervention but justify Iranian/Russian intervention. Iran is not a legit actor in Iraq/Syria/Leb/Yemen. Its crimes there are no less reprehensible than those by the US or colonialists.
12/ Iran is set to announce its next violations of the JCPOA in next few days. That's another thing to look out for, other than a military retaliation, in wake of today's #Soleimani kill. Will it escalate to the point of affecting break-out time or not?