TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran's retaliation for the assassination of Commander of IRGC Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 8 was meant to indicate that "actions against Iran will have repercussions".
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"It's unfortunate that the United States, based on misinformation, based on ignorance and arrogance, combined on a course that has brought the region very close to the brink," Zarif said in an interview with NBC News released on Saturday.
"We were very close to a war," he added.
The terrorist US forces assassinated General Soleimani, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha'abi counterterrorism fighting force, and their companions by targeting them near Baghdad International Airport on January 3. The IRGC shortly afterwards retaliated and unleashed volleys of ballistic missiles at the US' Ain al-Assad airbase in Iraq's Anbar Province
Despite claims by US officials that no one was hurt during the strike, the US Defense Department recently said 45 more American service members had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries after Iran's attack, raising the total number of troops injured in the ballistic missile strike to 109.
Asked about the risk of an inadvertent war following the assassination of the top general, Zarif said, "Well, the United States hit at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and these are the consequences and we can't control the consequences, nor can the United States. I mean, people are responsible for the consequences of their actions and I think people who initiated this, need to walk back."
"We wanted to show to the United States that they could not bully Iran. Actions against Iran will have repercussions, but the intention was not to kill anybody," Zarif said. "The intention was to send a message, a very clear message to the United States, that if they kill Iranians, we will hit back."
Gen. Soleimani was working at "containing people from engaging in actual military operations against anybody," Zarif said. "This was his job. This was what he was trying to do, to contain the situation."