The killing of all American leaders would not be enough to avenge the US assassination of Iran's top commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani two years ago, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Wednesday.
"Martyr Soleimani was such a great character that if all American leaders are killed, this will still not avenge his assassination," said Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the IRGC’s Ground Force, Tasnim News Agency reported.
"We should avenge Martyr Soleimani’s blood by following his path and through other methods."
The United States and Iran came close to full-blown conflict in 2020 after Soleimani's assassination in a drone attack at Baghdad airport and Tehran's retaliation by firing missiles at American troops based in Iraq.
Soleimani was the chief commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force when he was targeted.
After Iran’s missile strike, Pakpour said, “actions were taken against the Zionist regime [of Israel] and the Americans”.
He described the actions as “very heavy and devastating blows”.
The senior commander noted that Iran had reached a “certain level of deterrence” after General Soleimani’s assassination.
“Today, the enemies no longer have the power to take action against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pakpour added.
The comments came days after US Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he does not support removing the Quds Force from America’s blacklist, as demanded by Iran for the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Former US president Donald Trump abandoned the deal under which Iran had agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, and Iran responded by rolling back its nuclear activities.
Iran has been engaged for a year in negotiations with France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China directly, and the United States indirectly to revive the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Negotiations in the Austrian capital Vienna aim to bring back the US to the nuclear deal, including through the lifting of sanctions on Iran, and to return Iran to full compliance with its commitments.
But they have stalled since March as Tehran blames Washington for failing to settle remaining issues. One of the unresolved questions is Iran’s demand for dropping the IRGC from the US list of “terrorists”.
Iran's Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that the Vienna talks were advancing but urged officials not to tie the country's future to the success or collapse the negotiations
"Work is progressing well in the negotiations," Ayatollah Khamenei said.
"Do not stop your work to wait for the results of the negotiations," whatever they may be, he told Iranian officials including President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi.