0603 GMT January 23, 2020
President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday anti-terror efforts by Iran’s assassinated military commander, who was assassinated by the US last week in Iraq, contributed to international security.
“There is no doubt that, were it not for Martyr Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s efforts, you would not be enjoying calm in London today,” Rouhani said in a phone call with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging London to revisit its position on the matter.
Rouhani called Lt. Gen. Soleimani a friend of all the regional peoples and a champion of the anti-terror struggle.
Targeting their vehicle in Baghdad on Friday, a United States airstrike assassinated Lieutenant General Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), among others.
Lieutenant General Soleimani, who had won hard-earned reputation as the Middle East most revered anti-terror commander, would cooperate closely with the PMU and other regional counterterrorism groupings against the most deadly of the terrorist outfits to ever take on the region, including Daesh.
Johnson and former British foreign secretary and current MP, Jeremy Hunt, however, endorsed Soleimani’s assassination. The former said the British government did “not lament” the assassination, and the latter called it a “bold move” that could “quell” instability.
Soon after the assassinations, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Washington was to face a “harsh revenge” for the atrocity.
Early on Wednesday, the IRGC fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Ain al-Asad airbase in the western Iraqi Anbar Province, and another outpost in Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, both of which housed US forces.
Rouhani told Johnson that in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Iran’s retaliation constituted “legitimate defense.”
Iran's chief executive warned that the entire region was “at serious peril” from the United States’ acts of terrorism, but strongly advised the US against repeating its mistake against the Islamic Republic.
“Should the US perpetrate another blunder, it would receive a very dangerous response,” Iran's president said, adding that regional security was something that had to be provided by regional countries alone.
“The Americans and the White House lack all understanding about [the state of affairs] in the region,” he asserted, noting that the popular outrage, passion, and unity that transpired across the regional nations following Soleimani’s assassination made the Americans realize what a mistake they had made in assassinating the general.
Rouhani said the recent upheavals that have befallen the region are unexceptionally the upshot of the US illegal actions, including its withdrawal from a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran last year.
The US left the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018 although the agreement has been ratified in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution. Washington also reinstituted the sanctions that the deal had lifted.
Johnson, for his part, laid emphasis on the need for betterment of relations between London and Tehran.
He said safeguarding the JCPOA played a significant role in reinforcement of international security, and urged all-out effort aimed at preservation of the accord.
Later on Thursday, Rouhani called Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who expressed sympathy with Tehran over recent incidents.
Rouhani told Giuseppe that Lt. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination was rooted in the US “anger against a commander, who led the struggle against terrorism and Daesh in the region.”
Rouhani mentioned Washington’s terrorist actions as a major threat to regional security, saying, “The people of the region are, in their turn, are extremely enraged by the US and we must all try to contain strategic mistakes of the rogue US government, which is a result of their lack of information, to make this country abide by the law.”
Rouhani reiterated the assertion that the region’s predicaments have to be resolved by its own countries, citing the Iraqi parliament’s recent vote in favor of expulsion of the US-led forces as a decisive and clear response to the US intervention and acts of terrorism.
Iran's president also urged Europe to adopt a course that is independent of Washington’s wrongful policies that would enable it to contribute to regional peace and stability.
Giuseppe said the Italian government understands the Iranian nation’s anger over Soleimani’s assassination and called for efforts to ease tensions in the region.
“Italy will do everything in its power to reduce tensions and promote peace and stability in the region,” he said.
South Africa condemnation
Rouhani also spoke with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday on the phone and told him that Iran does not want to see tensions and insecurity rising in the region.
“We hope Americans stop doing the wrong measures, but they know that if they take another step against our interests, they will face a stronger reaction,” Rouhani said referring to the US targeted killing.
Ramaphosa called the assassination of Gen. Soleimani a “cowardly” act.
The South African president said “shocked” at the news of the assassination. “We strongly condemn this act,” Ramaphosa.
Warning against new mistake
Rouhani also called Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Rouhani told him the only way to maintain regional security is “to foster neighborly friendship and cooperation” and “prevent foreign interference.”
Rouhani expressed hope that the US will not “make another mistake” after Iran’s missile strike in retaliation for the Soleimani’s assassination.
“I hope the Americans, whose political life has always been full of mistakes, will not make another mistake,” he said.
The Qatari emir said his country is against any tension against the Islamic Republic.
Press TV contributed to this story.