Iran military leader threatens to turn 'US aircraft carriers into sinking submarines' on anniversary of Soleimani strike

 IRAN’S military leader has vowed to turn US aircraft carriers in to “sinking submarines”.

The threat was made one year after a US drone strike killed Iran's revered commander Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The US has been conducting B-52 bomber flyovers and sent a nuclear submarine into the Persian Gulf.

The military action was in response to what Donald Trump officials describe as the possibility of an Iranian attack on the anniversary of the strike that killed Soleimani and al-Muhandis.

And Tehran appeared to back up this war of words today, after Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi warned that Iran would hit back – hard.

Iranian international news network Press TV quoted the top military brass vowing: "We will never initiate a war, but we will respond decisively and with our utmost power and readiness if anyone attacks Iran."

Tensions remain high "as the US is terrified of retaliatory attacks on its positions in the region", the broadcaster says.

US officials have said they're bracing for a possible attack from Iran – as it's suspected the incoming Biden administration is most likely not prepared. 

Last week a nuclear-powered submarine arrived in the Persian Gulf, accompanied by two American warships in Trump's waning days in the White House.

Washington also recalled home the Navy's aircraft supercarrier USS Nimitz in "an abrupt reversal of its anti-Iran strategy", Press TV added.

Iran told reporters that it reserves the right to take military revenge against the "assassins of Gen. Soleimani and his companions".

Iranians have been marking the first "martyrdom anniversary" of top Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Iran blames Germany and other countries for his assassination, reports Deutsche Welle news.

Soleimani headed the elite Quds Force of Irans Revolutionary Guard, responsible for the Islamic Republics foreign operations, and he frequently shuttled between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

The military leader died during an audacious US-directed drone attack while visiting Baghdad on January 3, 2020.

Rockets fired from a drone killed him as he left the Baghdad airport in a convoy of two armoured vehicles.

Al-Muhandis – who was also killed – was Iraq's most powerful militia leader and deputy commander of the Iraqi government’s umbrella group for the country’s militias.

They both gained prominence for advising Shiite paramilitary forces fighting ISIS fanatics in Iraq, before it was defeated in 2017.

Their killings dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the region and brought America and Iran to the brink of war last year.

Iran immediately hit back by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of them.

Iranian officials have continued to suggest that more retaliation is coming.

The anniversary of the Baghdad drone strike has been marked in recent days across Iran and by supporters in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

On Saturday night, January 2, thousands of people took part in a commemoration ceremony at Baghdad's airport – where the deadly strike took place a year ago.

Mourners, many of them members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), joined a march on the highway leading to the airport.

Posters of the dead men adorned both sides of the road.

The scene of the bombing was turned into a shrine-like area sealed off by red ropes, with a photo of Soleimani and al-Muhandis in the middle, as mourners lit candles.

Shrapnel marks are still visible on the asphalt and concrete blast walls in the area.

The wreckage of two cars was on display on the road outside the airport as a reminder of the attack.

Thousands of Iraqi mourners chanted "revenge" and "no to America".

Pro-Iranian supporters, many dressed in black, massed in Baghdad's central Tahrir Square.

There, they condemned Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi as a "coward" and an "agent of the Americans".

Soleimani ran clandestine operations in foreign countries and was a key figure in Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive America forces out of Iraq.

He spent years running covert operations and cultivating militia leaders in Iraq to extend Iran’s influence and fight the interests of the US.

Since his death, Soleimani has been immortalised in portraits, sculptures, ballads and he even features in an upcoming TV series.

Tehran on Sunday also unveiled his autobiography – focusing largely on his childhood and early adulthood – and a postage stamp in his honour.

"We have come to say no to America and to any other occupier who wants to come and defile our land," one of the mourners, Oum Mariam, told AFP.

Since Soleimani's killing, Iraq's parliament initially voted to expel US forces.

But, despite some withdrawals, about 3,000 American troops remain in the country.

Iraqis, and many in the wider region, are nervously watching for any signs of escalation before Trump leaves the White House on January 20.

Trump recently tweeted that the US was hearing "chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq".

He also warned that "if one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over."

Iran's Revolutionary Guards chief Hossein Salami vowed on Saturday to respond to any "action the enemy takes" with "a reciprocal, decisive and strong blow".

Iran and America – bitter foes since the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution and the US embassy hostage crisis in Tehran – have twice come to the brink of war since June 2019, most recently after Soleimani's killing.

How did Qasem Soleimani die?

Qasem Soleimani was killed at Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020, by a US air strike, personally approved by Donald Trump.

Two missiles fired from a MQ9 Reaper drone struck Soleimani after he disembarked from an aircraft.

His plane landed at the airport at about 12.30am on January 3, according to two officials.

The general and his guards exited the plane on a staircase directly to the tarmac.

Abu Mahdi Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), met him outside the plane.

The two men stepped into a waiting armoured vehicle.

Soldiers guarding the general piled into another armoured SUV.

Both vehicles headed down the main road leading out of the airport.

The first two US rockets struck the vehicle carrying Soleimani and Muhandis at 12.55am.

The SUV carrying his security was hit seconds later.

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