Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are reportedly preparing for a cyberwar with the US in response to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani by a drone in southern Iran last year.

“We have learned of the CIA’s deliberate and heinous act of murder of Qassem Soleimani by a spy drone. The CIA’s barbaric attack must be highly punished and retaliated for,” Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency, quoted the chief of the Guards’ Quds Force (ISNA) as saying.

Soleimani, the Quds Force commander who has led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for the past 19 years, died at the age of 65 of a heart attack last September.

In December, the US launched a drone strike in Syria targeting senior Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani

At the time, Soleimani was inside Iran but it’s believed he was closely monitoring the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq.

Last May, IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying: “The US was warned that the time would come when it would pay a very heavy price for its abuse and ill-behaviour in the region.”

That warning could be very literal following the drone strike and Soleimani’s death.

“The men who laid the ghosts of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolution, the Iran-Iraq war and [Mullah] Khomeini’s death will give a very heavy price to those who could take up their hand,” Jafari said.

The IRGC’s missile expert Saleh Isfahani has also warned that the Iran-US confrontation will likely escalate into a cyberwar.

“America is a terrorist state,” Isfahani said. “The people of the United States must fear that the wars in the region will be used as a main base for them to conduct cyber attacks on them.”

“Today the internet, following Islamic values and countering the US, is a powerful tool for opposing the state of America,” he said.

He added: “An attack on Iran by the United States would eventually prompt the Iranian nation to give a very strong response via a cyber attack on the US.”

Those comments, as well as the Quds Force’s comments about it striking back at the US with drones, support the suggestion of a cyberattack.

In its statement following Soleimani’s death, the US said his death wasn’t terrorism and that Iran would be at fault if it retaliated.

“ISNA reported that Jaish Al-Adl, a separatist group in the Nasser Necheiman Iranian province, claimed responsibility for the assassination and said it targeted Soleimani because he has been working to expand Iran’s influence in the region in a bid to overthrow governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” the Associated Press reported at the time.

“The militants threatened more attacks.”

In the coming weeks, however, the Iranians will show some of that potential as Iranian officials celebrate the anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

The Guard’s commander of the Aerospace Unit Alireza Jahangiri called Soleimani’s death a “revenge” for the 1980s US-backed Iran-Iraq war and said his replacement will not be allowed to get close to the Quds Force’s secret base in Marivan.

One of the world’s most feared figures in the intelligence world, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan called him “the best drone in the world”. He also previously wrote in 2013: “[Soleimani] will become the next terrorist. There will be someone else who will have power in Iran and he will be his successor”.