Iran marked the second anniversary on Monday of the US assassination of Iran’s Quds force commander Qassem Suleimani with a nationally televised commemoration and demands that the perpetrators of the killing be held accountable.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said they “will be brought to justice and no efforts will be spared in this regard”.
Tehran urged the UN Security Council to “live up to” its responsibilities and hold the US “to account for planning, supporting and committing that terrorist act”.
After the killing Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened harsh retaliation but has since toned down rhetoric by saying the perpetrators will be “consigned to the dustheap of history” and judged in heaven.
On Saturday thousands marched in Baghdad chanting “Death to America” and demanding the withdrawal from Iraq of all 2,500 US and 1,000 allied troops tasked with training Iraqi forces.
Gen Suleimani, Iraqi militia deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and eight companions died on January 3rd, 2020, when US drones struck their convoy outside Baghdad’s international airport. The architect of Tehran’s regional strategy, the general was hugely popular in Iran and his murder prompted countrywide mourning.
Violent retaliation came not from Iran but from pro-Iranian Iraqi militiamen who fired rockets at two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops, without causing casualties.
In June 2020 Iran issued arrest warrants for ex-president Donald Trump, who ordered the operation, and other US officials on murder and terrorism charges but Interpol dismissed Tehran’s call to detain them.
In July 2020, UN rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard said the US operation violated international law as no evidence had been provided that Suleimani posed an imminent threat. She said that “outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal”.
Meanwhile, Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani arrived in Vienna for the resumption of the eighth round of talks designed to rescue the 2015 agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Mr Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating commitments in 2019.
Although talks have progressed since Iran’s hardline president Ebrahim Raisi took office in August, Iran and the US reportedly remain far apart as Iran seeks assurances on US behaviour.
Writing on the Middle East Eye website, ex-senior Iranian official and Princeton academic Sayed Hosein Mousavian said: “The main lesson that the Iranian people and their rulers have drawn from their [experience with the agreement] is that Iran can never trust the US. Even if the US signs an international accord reinforced by the UN Security Council, there is no guarantee that the US would abide by its side of the bargain.”