A massive funeral procession is currently underway in Ahvaz, the provincial capital city of Southwestern province of Khuzestan.
From Ahvaz, the cortege will be heading to the holy city of Mashhad in Iran’s Northeast later in the day and from there to Tehran and his hometown Kerman in the Southeast for burial on Tuesday.
Tagging along are the remains of Gen. Soleimani’s trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), being carried for DNA testing in Tehran because some pieces have possibly been mixed up. After testing, Muhandis’ remains will be returned to Najaf for burial.
The assassination has triggered a wave of outrage among Iranians and Iraqis, and further aligned the two neighbors with vociferous calls for revenge for what they view as “state terrorism”.
Hundreds of thousands of people held funeral processions for the two commanders and their companions in Baghdad and the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf on Saturday.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and Iraqi commander Hadi al-Amiri, the top candidate to succeed Muhandis, senior cleric Ammar al-Hakim and other important figures in a large crowd accompanied the coffins.
Ameri and many other Iraqi leaders have called on all factions in Iraq to unite and expel foreign troops.
Many Iraqis condemned the US assassination, regarding General Soleimani as a hero for his role in defeating the ISIL terrorists who seized large swathes of North and central Iraq in 2014.
Gen. Soleimani, a 62-year-old general, was Tehran’s pre-eminent military commander and – as head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s overseas Quds Force – the architect of Iran’s anti-terror campaign and fight against American and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
Both Soleimani and Muhandis were popular figureheads in helping squelch an ominous rise of the ISIL which once came as close as 30 km to Baghdad.
Images of the Iranian commander along with Iraqi fighters at frontlines as the ferocious battle against the ISIL terrorists went on are endearingly etched in the minds of many Iraqis.
The attack represents a dramatic escalation by the US toward Iran after months of tensions. The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.