A former top CIA official has warned there will be “dead civilian Americans” as a result of the targeted air strike that killed an Iranian general.
Michael Morell, a former acting and deputy CIA director, said the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani would spark a “harsh retaliation” from the Iranian government, and that US citizens would be targeted.
“Soleimani was an evil genius. He had a lot of American blood on his hands. The world is a better place without him. The problem is that comes at a very high cost,“ Mr Morell, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency, told CBS.
“Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this. Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.“
In the days after Soleimani’s assassination at a Baghdad airport, American officials have claimed that US citizens are now safer.
But those apparently reassuring comments appear to be directly contradicted by State Department security warnings for Americans in Iraq, telling them to leave the country.
Donald Trump has also ordered thousands of US troops to be sent to the Middle East in anticipation of a response from Iran. American oil workers in the country have also reportedly begun to leave, in fear of retaliation.
“The world’s a much safer place today and I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer today after the demise of Qassem Soleimani,” Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of State, said on Friday.
Iran has vowed to avenge Soleimani after his death, and the country has seen mass demonstrations of mourning for the commander.
On Sunday, in the city of Ahvaz, where demonstrators had gathered just months ago to protest against the government, tens of thousands of mourners gathered to greet the coffins of Soleimani and five other Revolutionary Guard Corps members who were also killed in the strike.
“Death to America,” the crowd could be heard chanting.
“Harsh vengeance awaits the criminals that got his and other martyrs’ blood on their evil hands in last night’s incident,” said Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.
The United States has claimed the attack was aimed at curtailing an “imminent” threat to American lives, but has provided little evidence or intelligence to support that claim.
The Quds Force leader’s death has been met with concern from American allies abroad, who have suggested it could lead to an escalation of tensions, even as officials in the UK and Germany said Soleimani was a danger to the region.
Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab said Britain “recognised the aggressive threat” posed by Soleimani, but said “further conflict is in none of our interests”.
In France, a government spokesperson said the attack had made conflict more likely, and the world less safe.
“We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” Amelie de Montchalin, France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, told RTL radio.
“When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is under way.”
The governments of Russia and China have also expressed fears that killing Soleimani had made the world less safe.