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Iran pursues 94 US citizens over Soleimani killing

Tehran has announced it is pursuing dozens of people it accuses of involvement in the 2020 assassination of its Quds Force leader.
An Iranian carries the portraits of slain Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (L) during a ceremony in the capital Tehran, on January 3, 2023, to commemorate the third anniversary of their killing by a US drone strike in the Iraqi capital. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Iranian judiciary said Tuesday that 94 US citizens were among over 150 people allegedly involved in the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran's top general who was hit in a January 2020 US airstrike in Baghdad.  

At a televised weekly presser, the spokesperson for Iran's judiciary, Masoud Setayeshi, said legal proceedings have officially been launched and "summoning" letters have been sent to the addresses of the accused. 

The announcement appeared to be an update with 43 unnamed new people added to another 51 Americans backlisted by the Islamic Republic last year. The old list with pictures and names was re-posted by Iran's state media on Monday. "The most wanted murderers" included US officials, former officials in both military and civil service as well as private citizens. Among the names included were former White House officials Victoria Coates, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Blackwater founder Erik Prince.

As the chief of the Quds Force — the overseas branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — Soleimani commanded a wide network of Tehran-backed proxy militant forces operating across much of the Middle East. Considered a terrorist figure by the United States, Soleimani was targeted under a directive from President Donald Trump.  

The "leading culprits" in Iran's Soleimani revenge file, according to Kazem Gharibababdi, the Iranian deputy judiciary chief for international affairs, are Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the former head of the US Central Command, Kenneth McKenzie. 

Ahead of Soleimani's third death anniversary, Gharibababdi told reporters that Iran was pursuing the matter internationally. He complained that such Western countries as Germany and the United Kingdom have ignored Iranian requests for judicial cooperation.  

Pledges for revenge  

Iranian officials and IRGC commanders, in particular, have made overt threats of revenge against those behind Soleimani's death. Hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi promised a crowd of Soleimani supporters on Tuesday that "his murderers will not sleep tight," according to the government-run IRNA news agency.   

Also last year, Soleimani's successor Esmail Ghaani warned that Iran will "prepare the ground for revenge against the Americans on their own soil" and that they remain under "our magnifying glass." A few months later, the media office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei released an animated video featuring a remote-controlled drone operation targeting Trump inside what appeared to be his Mar-a-Lago residence.  

In a statement on the eve of the third Soleimani death anniversary, the IRGC once again vowed revenge and promised to spread his "school of thought" across the region. But despite its size and influence, the military entity has faced challenges in recent years of strain by Iran's sanctions-hit economy, especially after it was blacklisted by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019.

On Monday, the United Kingdom appeared to be preparing to follow suit. A Daily Telegraph report quoted its sources as saying that the UK government's terrorist listing of the IRGC was in the pipeline, expected to be announced "within weeks."  

According to the report, the decision was a response to the Islamic Republic's arrest of seven UK-linked individuals amid an anti-regime protest movement that has shaken Iran since mid-September and been met with an iron-fisted crackdown by the IRGC.

A recurring protest gesture during this period of unrest has seen Soleimani banners, portraits and statues across many Iranian cities set on fire by disillusioned demonstrators. While in recent days the Iranian government was busy preparing for rallies in commemoration of its national hero, activists from the protest movement countered the state narrative by posting his record as a "child-killing criminal" in Syria and elsewhere.

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