As It Happens

Iranian broadcaster warns 'escalation is not the way forward' amid calls for Soleimani retaliation

Iran has warned about "severe revenge," but a correspondent for an Iranian state-run broadcaster says he hopes cooler heads will prevail.

'The stakes are high for everybody, including Canada,' says Ghanbar Naderi of Iran's state-run Press TV

Iranians demonstrate in the capital Tehran following the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. air strike. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)
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A correspondent for an Iranian state-run broadcaster says he hopes cooler heads will prevail as tensions flare up between Iran and the United States. 

Qassem Soleimani, Iran's top military leader, was killed by a United States missile strike in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday. His death has prompted demonstrations in Tehran and denunciations in Iraq.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the killing will be met with "severe revenge." But U.S. President Donald Trump says he ordered the strike to "stop a war" and what he alleges was the Revolutionary Guards leader's plans to kill U.S. personnel in the region.

Ghanbar Naderi, a correspondent for PressTV, spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about the Soleimani klling and what kind of response he expects from the Iranian government.

Here is part of their conversation.

You heard U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tell CNN the killing of Qassem Soleimani has made the world a safer place. Are you feeling safer? 

This is fake news. It was [Commander] Soleimani — the major general of Iran's IRGC Quds — and his forces that dislodged the medieval butchers of ISIS from Iraq and Syria when the United States was kicking the can down the road and Europe was looking the other way.

They are trying to justify the assassination of a great man that sacrificed a lot to save the region from ISIS and, of course, al-Qaeda.

Soleimani was considered the architect of Iran's policy in Syria. (The Associated Press)

It isn't just the Trump administration that is describing Soleimani as a bad guy. The Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad tweeted today that Gen. Soleimani was a "warmonger" responsible for the crackdown against Iranian students in the '90s and for a large number of deaths in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. What do you say to her?

There are a handful of people in the West that are trying to score some points for themselves, personal points. I don't want to dispute their causes because they want to say what they want to say.

I was spending the whole day today with millions of Iranians on the streets that were angry and frustrated and they were condemning, in strong terms, the assassination of this great man.

He sacrificed a lot to save the region from terrorist groups. And he didn't deserve this kind of death. I'm telling you one thing with 100 per cent confidence — this man was not a politician. He didn't support this or that political group.

But the Trump administration, as I told you, is only doing this for political reasons.

Let's not forget the fact that yesterday, the Iranian leader made it absolutely clear that Iran didn't play any role in the attacks on the American embassy compound in Baghdad. The problem is that he didn't condemn the attacks. But after that, he said that America is not going to be able to do a damn thing about us.

I think Trump was watching it and he took it very personally. This was a personal attack on the Iranian leadership. That's precisely what he went for. Otherwise, he wanted to take American troops out of Iraq and the region. It just didn't make any sense for him to give this kind of order at this critical point in time.

I'm telling you one thing for sure — Iran is going to retaliate. Definitely, something is going to happen.

There will be flare-ups — not just in Syria, not just in Iraq, but even in Afghanistan and Yemen. Iran is going to use its proxy forces to put pressure on the American troops in these volatile countries.

If they don't retaliate, this is going to be the last nail in their coffins in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. If they want to win these two elections, they have no choice but to attack American interests in the region — and that's precisely what they are going to do.

You're seeing world governments call for cooler heads, for a de-escalation on both sides of this. Do you think that there is concern within Iran, particularly within the government, that escalation may be a bad idea?

It is a terrible mistake. It's a strategic blunder on the part of the Iranians and, of course, American officials to escalate the current situation because no other country is supporting these two governments.

They need to realize and come to their senses that they are not the only ones that have interests in the Middle East. There are many countries in the region and beyond that want peace. They want de-escalation. They will not have any partnership with these two countries because there are no cooler heads in these two capitals.

The American and Iranian officials and governments need to realize that they will be left to their own devices if they escalate the current situation and start another war in the region. We know pretty much that the region cannot afford another war.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the killing of Soleimani has made the world a safer place. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

You said earlier you were out among those mourners today and that the people on the streets are very angry. But did you hear support for retaliation, or did you hear fear and concern from many of the people you're speaking with?

This is a divided country. We have the people who support the establishment and those who don't support the establishment.

There are also people that do not support escalation and revenge. But millions of people took to the streets today and these people are conservatives. They support the IRGC, the leadership and the establishment.

They might not support the government. But they want a harsher response to the U.S. government for what it did to the Iranian nation. That is precisely what is going on here.

But if you're asking me, I think that we need some kind of understanding and dialogue. This is not worth it. We have to realize that many more lives are going to be lost if these two countries don't come to their senses and realize that escalation is not the way forward.

We have paid a heavy price for 40 years. Nobody wants to see another another war in Iran. Nobody wants to see another war in Iraq or the region. Even the regional countries are calling for a containment strategy. They are calling for dialogue.

Let's cross our fingers and hope that that will be the case. But if that is not the case, as I told you, the hardliners have no choice but to retaliate. They have made it absolutely clear.

Naderi says millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the 'assassination of a great man,' but insists that cooler heads need to prevail and both countries need to try to de-escalate the situation. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada has troops currently stationed in Iraq. What do you think this might mean for them and their safety?

The stakes are high for everybody, including Canada, including the European Union countries — even Japan, China and Russia. Everybody is going to pay through the nose if the big-headed politicians in Iran and the United States do not calm down and understand that they are on their own if they go to war with each other.


Written by Kevin Robertson and John McGill. Produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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