People attend a protest against the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran. Picture: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua/IANS

Johannesburg – Amid growing security threats in the Middle East, which analysts fear will soon result in bloody direct combat, the government has announced that it is ready to evacuate South African nationals who wish to get out of Iraq.

The readiness was announced by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) after the US killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Major-General Qasem Soleimani on Friday in Baghdad.

The cold-blooded killing has stirred political tensions, with some Middle East news outlets such as Al Jazeera reporting on Sunday that Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had warned “a harsh retaliation is waiting”.

Iran’s state-owned international news channel Press TV reported that hundreds of thousands of people attended the Soleimani’s funeral chanting “Death to America’’ and “Death to Israel”.

There were also reports that armed groups sympathetic to Iran had vowed to fight back, going as far as ordering Iraqi forces to move away from US army bases so that they are not caught up in the crossfire when they strike US bases, which were established in the region in 2003 when America invaded the oil-rich country to topple Saddam Hussein.