Iranian Military Leader Threatens List Of U.S. Targets

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President Donald Trump’s team has claimed that their abrupt airstrike that killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was not meant to spark conflict with the country — but that’s exactly the kind of situation that’s developing anyway. General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, a senior Iranian military commander whose area of jurisdiction includes a southern province called Kerman, has listed off a specific group of U.S. targets that could come under fire from the Iranians in retaliation for the assassination of Soleimani. Those targets include ships traveling through the area and locations in Israel, a longtime U.S. ally.

Reuters describes the commander in question as threatening to “punish Americans wherever they are within reach of the Islamic Republic” in direct revenge for the general’s killing. According to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Abuhamzeh commented:

‘The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there… vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago… some 35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv are within our reach.’

Iranian leaders have already insisted that “harsh retaliation” against the United States will be coming. In preparation for possible sharply escalating violence, the Trump administration has kickstarted a deployment of thousands of additional troops to the Middle East, whose arrival follows other violence besides the Soleimani strike. In recent days, in an installment of a gradually spiraling, violent tit-for-tat confrontation, the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah attacked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, inflicting significant damage on the compound. That followed a series of U.S. airstrikes on the group, which in turn followed a rocket attack on a U.S. military base in the country that killed one American contractor.

In the time since, in the same strike that killed Soleimani, the U.S. has also killed the leader of Kataib Hezbollah, which is one of a significant number of Iran-backed militias in the region that could be activated to carry out retaliatory attacks on U.S. interests.

The president and his allies have claimed that the strike on Soleimani, who has long led violent operations against U.S. personnel in the region, was necessary to thwart a supposedly soon incoming major attack against U.S. interests, although there remains an apparent glaring lack of evidence actually supporting this assertion.

Prominent New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who covers counterterrorism and Middle Eastern affairs, shared on Twitter that checking in with some of her own sources revealed that the White House case for rushing ahead with this reckless strike was “razor thin.”

She explained:

‘I’ve had a chance to check in with sources, including two US officials who had intelligence briefings after the strike on Suleimani. Here is what I’ve learned. According to them, the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is “razor thin”… The question is why now? His whereabouts have been known before. His resume of killing-by-proxy is not a secret. Hard to decouple his killing from the impeachment saga.’

In other words — it’s difficult not to perceive that the president has put lives in danger to try and distract people from the fact that he’s impeached.