The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, IRGC, General Hossein Salami, has responded with a counter-threat to U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook who said if Iran's new Qods (Quds) Force Commander follows the same path of killing Americans, he will face the fate of his predecessor.
Former Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Baghdad on January 3 and subsequently, Brigadier General Esmail Qaani has been appointed as his successor.
Salami said in a 27 January interview with the IRGC's Sepah News website, "Those who have threatened our commanders with assassination, will have to regret what they said, if they remain alive."
Salami further warned: "Let U.S., the Israelis and others know that none of their commanders will be safe if they threaten Iranian commanders to assassination."
He said "Our enemies have seen part of the consequences of the assassination of General Soleimani and have realized that they will have to face constant pounding responses if they do such moves once again."
Salami said that Iran's response will be "different from the past" and will come "in a larger scale," adding that "They will face a new situation they cannot control. So, we warn them to withdraw" from this stance.
He said the reason why Americans make such threats is that they find themselves incapable in other arenas. "They resort to assassination when they fail in other areas. For instance, when they failed in their attempts to deprive Iran from nuclear technology, they assassinated our nuclear scientists," Sepah News quoted him as saying.
Hook made his comment in a 23 January interview with London-based Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of Davos Conference. The interview was published on 25 January.
Hook's remarks were strongly condemned by Iranian and Russian officials. Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the threat "a clear sign of "weakness, desperation, and confusion" among the officials of the American regime, " and Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday:"Such statements are unacceptable for us. Such remarks have been made beyond rights and law, and representatives of world states are not entitled to utter them.”
Meanwhile, speaking at the gathering of IRGC's Basij militia in Tehran on 27 January, General Salami called for boosting the Basij's power and said the Basij militia "are like doctors who tend to the society's spiritual problems and sanitize young Iranians' lifestyle."
Basij forces are known for their role in violent crackdown on protesters particularly in December 2017, January 2018 and November 2019 anti-government protests.
Iranians have also been complaining at various occasion about their harsh treatment by Basij members in vice squads that patrol the streets of Iranian cities particularly in the summer time,and arrest women for not observing arbitrary hijab rules.
Salami promised that 54,000 Basij bases across Iran can solve Iran's problems and serve the people.
In his speech among the militia, which was aimed at boosting their morale, Salami said: "Following the assassination of General Soleimani the United States warned that it would give a military response if US forces are threatened. The IRGC targeted a major U.S. base and slapped them in the face, but Trump was not able to respond."
Meanwhile, speaking at the Basij gathering on 26 January, Basij Commander Gholamreza Soleimani said that there are plans under way to boost Basij's power in the next Iranian year which starts in late March.
He said reinforcing the militia units are among the IRGC's priorities for the next year.
He said one of the plans is to spread Basij's network in every neighbourhood. This was what the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei suggested following the nationwide protests in November 2019 as a way of keeping an eye on the population to curb unrest before it happens.