Iran’s supreme leader touted his country’s missile strike against Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops as a “slap” to the Americans in retaliation for the U.S. strike that killed a senior Iranian commander last week. But Ayatollah Ali Khameni said Iran’s real revenge would be forcing the U.S. to leave the region.
“They (America) were struck with such a slap last night,” Khamenei told a large crowd in Tehran chanting the familiar “death to America” refrain.
“Military action like this is not sufficient,” he said. “What is important is ending the corrupting presence of America in the region.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani echoed the supreme leader’s comment, saying Iran’s “real revenge and the ultimate response by regional nations is when America is expelled from this region and its hand of aggression is cut off forever.”
After a meeting of Iran’s cabinet on Wednesday morning CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer asked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif what it would take to start de-escalating the current crisis.
“It is up to the United States to now come to its senses and stop its adventurism in this region,” Zarif said.
Palmer said the Iranians she has spoken to in Tehran this week are very worried. Their country is already hurting from sanctions, and they dread the prospect of a war.
In, Zarif said his country would only strike “legitimate targets” in its response to the strike that killed the country’s general.
In that interview Zarif also distanced Iran’s government from the proxy groups known to be directly linked to Tehran in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the powerful Shiite militias in Iraq known collectively as the PMU.
“Those people are not controlled by us because they’re not our proxies. They’re people with emotions, independent thinking, and that is why I said, what they will do is not controllable by Iran,” Zarif insisted.
As of Wednesday morning, there had been no retaliation by the Shiite militia to the U.S. strike last Friday, which killed one of its senior leaders alongside the Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.