In an exclusive interview with CNN in Tehran, Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said: “The response for sure will be military and against military sites.”
Dehghan, a former defense minister, is the main military adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is very close to the Supreme Leader.
“Let me tell you one thing: Our leadership has officially announced that we have never been seeking war and we will not be seeking war,” Dehghan said.
“It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions. The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward they should not seek a new cycle.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday the United States committed a “grave mistake” in killing Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and US President Donald Trump responded on Twitter, writing that if Tehran attacks American assets, the US will strike “very hard and very fast.”
Dehghan described the tweets as “ridiculous and absurd.”
“[Trump] doesn’t know international law. He doesn’t recognize UN resolutions either. Basically he is a veritable gangster and a gambler. He is no politician he has no mental stability,” Dehghan said.
Making reference to United National resolution 2347 which condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, Dehghan said “if [Trump] wants to imposed rule, logic and rationality over his decision he should accept that he is a war criminal and must be tried in a relevant court.”
Asked what would happen if Trump were to carry out his threat to strike any of Iran’s cultural sites, Dehghan said “for sure no American military staff, no American political center, no American military base, no American vessel will be safe. And they are accessible to us.”
Rouhani said earlier Americans would face consequences for killing Soleimani “not only today, but also in the coming years.”
Rouhani’s remarks came on the same day mourners in neighboring Iraq had chanted “Death to America” at a funeral procession for Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader who died with him in a US airstrike in Iraq early Friday.
The strike killed Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces. At least six people were killed in the strike, an Iraqi security source told CNN on condition of anonymity.
It marks a major escalation in regional tensions that have pitted Tehran against Washington and its allies in the Middle East.
Trump on Friday said he ordered the death of Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful men, to stop a war, not start one, as tensions between the two nations were already escalating.
Trump said Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.
The Pentagon blamed Soleimani and Iran-backed Iraqi militias for recent assaults on coalition bases in Iraq, including a December 27 strike that killed an American civilian contractor and wounded several US and Iraqi military personnel.
After retaliatory US airstrikes against the militias last month, hundreds of protesters stormed the US Embassy compound in Baghdad on December 31, an attack the US blamed on Soleimani.
Soleimani was the head of Quds Force, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unit in charge of foreign operations, and he became the architect of Tehran’s proxy conflicts in the Middle East. The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies over the years.
CNN’s Radina Gigova, Tamara Qiblawi, Jason Hanna and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.