Iran’s hardliners have threatened to kill former US president Donald Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo following the stabbing of Sir Salman Rushdie - allegedly by Hadi Matar, a Muslim who has been praised by the religious regime in Tehran.
The Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is personally selected by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has suggested that after Rushdie, “it is now the turn of Trump and Pompeo”.
“God has taken his revenge on Rushdie. The attack on him shows it is not a difficult job to take similar revenge on Trump and Pompeo and from now on they will feel more in danger for their lives,” reads the paper’s front-page editorial today.
In January this year on the first anniversary of the killing of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi publicly threatened Trump and Pompeo with retaliation.
“If the conditions for a fair trial of Mr Trump and Mr Pompeo and other criminals become available, they will be charged for committing this heinous crime and will face the consequence of their criminal actions.
“However, let there be no doubt that I say here to all American statesmen that the hand of revenge will eventually come out of the sleeve of our nation.”
Assassination plot 'real and ongoing'
Iran’s attempts to assassinate former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “are real and ongoing” his successor Anthony Blinken, told US Congress in April.
Although the motive for the attack on Rushdie is not clear yet, Iranian opposition forces in exile have no doubt that the knifeman was influenced by the death sentence that ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini put on Rushdie for his book Satanic Verses.
“These fatwas for killing people with whose ideas you do not agree are nothing new in the history of Islam in Iran,” Dr Abbas Milani of Stanford University has told London-based Iran International TV.
“They have been issued by fanatic and extremist religious leaders against tens of Iranian writers and intellectuals too. But to issue it against citizens of foreign and democratic countries is simply abhorrent and amounts to religious fascism,” said Dr Milani.
The current Iranian leadership has never rescinded the fatwa, arguing that “it is still valid as an edict of a grand ayatollah”.
The headline of the front page story on the Kayhan newspaper reads: “God has taken his revenge on Rushdie. Next is the turn of Trump and Pompeo.”
Attack 'may have been US plot'
On Sunday, the ultra-conservative daily Javan suggested that the attack may have been a plot hatched by the Americans.
“Maybe a young Muslim, who was not even born when Salman Rushdie wrote his satanic book, wanted revenge on him," it said.
Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old man accused of stabbing Rushdie, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges on Saturday.
“Another scenario is that the United States probably wants to spread Islamophobia around the world,” Javan wrote.
Iran's authorities have kept total silence over the attempt to kill the British-American author who was stabbed about 10 times in what the US authorities called a premeditated assault.
Thierry Coville, an expert on Iran at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, said he does not think the authorities were involved.
“I don't see the hand of the Iranian state in this attack, but what is certain is that it will increase mistrust of Iran in the United States,” he said.