Former Iranian Defense Minister IRGC General Hossein Dehghan, who currently serves as a defense advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was interviewed on Channel 1 (Iran) on January 5, 2020. He said that if the fact that Qasem Soleimani had been responsible for the death of Americans was a valid reason for the U.S. to kill him, then countries like Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan have the legitimate "right" to kill as many as one million Americans because of all the deaths that the U.S. has caused in these countries. He said that Iran will respond militarily to Soleimani's killing, that any Iranian response will constitute a legitimate form of self-defense, and that the response will be a retaliation on par with the killing of Soleimani. General Dehghan threatened that if war is forced upon Iran, it will respond in a way that will make the U.S. regret its actions. In addition, General Dehghan said that while Iran will not target American civilians, it will consider any American military base, naval vessel, or gathering center to be a legitimate target. He compared President Trump to a rabid dog and said that if Iran doesn't respond to Soleimani's killing in a way that makes Trump regret what he did and feel ashamed, then Trump will only be encouraged to commit more crimes against Iran.
Hossein Dehghan: "Trump is bragging..."
Interviewer: "Right, he said that he would hit 52 cultural targets in Iran."
Hossein Dehghan: "He said that he would hit 52 targets, and then he added that 52 is the number of the people taken hostage at the former American embassy [in Tehran]. First of all, our people kept the Americans safe and sound, and then returned them. Was any one [of the Americans] killed that Trump wants to exact revenge now? Well, how many people have the Americans killed in Iran? They killed 290 in the Airbus [incident of 1988]. Then, with American support, the hypocrites [Mojahedin-e Khalq] have turned many of our people into martyrs. There was also the [Iran-Iraq] War of Holy Defense. Today, Trump's words provide legitimacy for the whole world to... If [Trump's] logic for taking action is valid, then everybody has the right to kill as many Americans as the Americans have killed [from among their people]. The Iraqis have the right to kill as many as one million Americans. After all, the Americans killed very many Iraqis during their invasion of Iraq. Then, ISIS killed Iraqis with [American] support. The Afghans have the same right. It is the same with Yemen. In Obama's time, the drones carried out very many crimes."
Interviewer: "They would attack weddings and mourning ceremonies..."
Hossein Dehghan: "Yes, they bombed everywhere. Fine – if this is the logic and if this legitimizes action, then America in its entirety should feel vulnerable to this legitimate action. This is a legitimate form of defense. If we say that they turned Qasem into a martyr and that we will avenge him, then this is a legitimate form of self-defense. The U.S. violated Iraq's sovereignty and killed a senior [Iranian] commander, who was there in an official capacity following an official invitation from Iraq. What is the meaning of this? This means that any action we take will constitute total and legitimate self-defense.
"First of all, we declared – and the Leader referred to this in recent days – that we would not start any war, but that if a war is forced upon us, we would respond in a way that would make them regret it. Therefore, we will respond by exacting revenge in a way that is on par with what they did. It will certainly be a firm response.
"The geography of the threat doesn't matter to us anymore. Wherever there is anything American – be it a military base, a warship, or a gathering center of theirs..."
Interviewer: "But you won't target civilians..."
Hossein Dehghan: "Of course not. We will never target any American civilian. We will make sure of this."
Interviewer: "Some people are asking Iran to give up on its legitimate right to revenge because Trump is a crazy man and because our response might lead to war."
Hossein Dehghan: "Is it conceivable... Perhaps it is suitable to use this term with regard to Trump... Can one come near a rabid dog and expect it not to bite? If America does not receive an appropriate response, then Mr. Trump will be encouraged to repeat his crime. Mr. Trump must receive an appropriate response so that he regrets what he did and feels ashamed. There can be no other option."