Hundreds of thousands of Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran and other cities across the country Friday to condemn the U.S. assassination of military leader Qassem Soleimani, discrediting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s prediction that the people of Iran would “view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”
Images and videos of massive rallies circulated on social media as Iranians gathered following Friday prayers to denounce Soleimani’s killing, which was ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump and carried out via drone strike Thursday night.
Soleimani’s assassination, according to Al-Jazeera, “triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum.”
Nazli, a 40-year-old resident from the northern city of Rasht, told the Washington Post Friday that “everyone is worried.”
“The people I spoke with weren’t sad but shocked,” said Nazli. “On social media, some people I thought didn’t support the regime are now expressing sorrow for his death.”
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Hundreds of Iranians also gathered outside the United Nations office in Tehran to condemn the assassination, which sparked warnings of a catastrophic regional conflict.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, said in a statement Friday that “this is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint.”
“The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” said Haq.
Iranian leaders condemned Soleimani’s assassination as an act of terrorism and vowed retaliatory action against the United States.
“The U.S. bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted late Thursday.
The massive rallies in Iran came as U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo said in a CNN interview Friday that he believes Iranians will welcome the assassination of Soleimani—a remark that drew comparisons to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s infamous prediction in 2003 that American troops would be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq.
“We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq but in Iran will view the American action last night as giving them freedom,” said Pompeo. “Freedom to have the opportunity for success and prosperity for their nations. While the political leadership may not want that, the people in these nations will demand it.”
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