Iran’s supreme leader has released an animated video on his official website depicting the assassination of former US president Donald Trump, a blunt and provocative gesture at a time of ongoing international talks about the Iranian nuclear programme.
The video, which appeared late on Wednesday on the website of supreme leader Ali Khamenei, shows Iranian military officials manoeuvring high-tech surveillance and unmanned combat vehicles toward Mr Trump while he plays golf in a subtropical setting similar to his Florida home.
It follows the second anniversary of the US’s 3 January 2020 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the former commander and architect of Iran’s overseas clandestine paramilitary operations.
Last week, Iran announced sanctions on Mr Trump and 50 other current and former US officials allegedly involved in the operation to kill Soleimani in a Baghdad drone strike that also struck and killed Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, former leader of Iran’s militias.
Those added to the largely symbolic Iranian sanctions list included general Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien. The US called the sanctions a provocation.
“We will work with our allies and partners to deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran," US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday in response to the sanctions. “Should Iran attack any of our nationals, including any of the 52 people named yesterday, it will face severe consequences.”
Semi-official Iranian media outlets have previously published or broadcast violent anti-American material.
Last year, a Twitter account associated with Mr Khamenei, a high-ranking Shia cleric or ayatollah, was suspended for posting an image of the shadow of a drone over an image of a plump Mr Trump playing golf.
Posting the Trump video to Mr Khamenei’s official website suggested a further escalation. The two-minute clip was the winner of a competition organised to honour Mr Soleimani, who had a personal relationship with the supreme leader.
The video opens with a shot of a figure strongly resembling Trump playing golf while a remote-controlled robot moves past security cameras disarmed by a remote hacker.
The drone operator, with portraits of Mr Soleimani and Mr Muhandi on the computer console in front of him, puts Mr Trump in his sights and then texts a message vowing revenge to one of the former president’s golfing pals.
The video ends before the airstrike is launched.
Another post on Mr Khamenei’s English-language website, shows a smartphone with the word “retribution” translated into several languages.
“Those who martyred Gen Soleimani – Trump and the like – will be among the forgotten ones,” said a quote attributed to Mr Khamenei. “But Soleimani will live on forever. His enemies will disappear, but after having received retribution in this world for their crime, God willing.”
Iran has conducted targeted assassinations abroad but mostly against Iranian nationals, especially dissidents and leaders of ethnic separatist movements.
Iran and world powers, including the US, are engaged in talks aimed at resurrecting and reinforcing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Mr Trump in favour of a failed policy of sanctions and threats meant to force Iran into a better deal.