(Reuters) — Americans will be expelled from Iraq and Syria, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, renewing Iran’s demand for US troops to be withdrawn from the Middle East.
Iran almost got into a full-blown conflict with the United States when a US drone strike killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3, prompting Tehran to retaliate with a missile barrage against a US base in Iraq days later.
Khamenei said Americans’ actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria had led to them being hated, according to a transcript of a speech to students published on his website.
“The Americans won’t stay in Iraq and Syria and will be expelled,” Khamenei said.
Last month, US President Donald Trump said he had instructed the US Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea, but said later he was not changing the military’s rules of engagement.
After Trump’s statement, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said that the Islamic Republic would destroy US warships if its security is threatened in the Gulf.
Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Heavens
Image: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech on the occasion of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, in Tehran, Iran March 20, 2020. (Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo)