US President Donald Trump has said Iranian General Qassem Soleimani had made the death of innocent people his “sick passion” and contributed to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London, a day after ordering the drone attack that killed the powerful Revolutionary Guards commander in Iraq.
Soleimani, 62, the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed when a drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday.
In his first comments since the killing of the Iranian military leader, Trump said that Soleimani had been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years.
“The recent attacks on US targets in Iraq, including rocket strikes that killed an American and injured four American servicemen very badly, as well as a violent assault on our embassy in Baghdad, were carried out at the direction of Soleimani,” Trump told reporters at his personal Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Friday.
“Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London. Today we remember and honor the victims of Soleimani’s many atrocities and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over,” he said.
Donald Trump said what the United States did yesterday should have been done a long ago.
“A lot of lives would have been saved. Just recently Soleimani led the brutal repression of protesters in Iran, where more than 1,000 innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their own government,” he said.
Amidst escalation of tension with Iran, Trump claimed Soleimani’s killing will not lead to war.
The US president said he had acted to prevent a plot against America by General Qassim Soleimani, who he called a “sick monster” and “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world.”
Mr. Trump said: “We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war.
Donald Trump – “Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London. His reign of terror is over.
“He was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him.”
The president added: “We do not seek regime change. However, the Iranian regime’s aggression, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize neighbors, must end, and it must end now.”
If Americans anywhere were targeted by Iran he had “targets already identified and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.”
On Friday night, the White House insisted it acted in response to clear threats against Americans.
Robert O’Brien, the US national security adviser, said Soleimani had arrived in Baghdad from Damascus and had been moving around the Middle East plotting imminent attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.
Iran has vowed to retaliate against the US airstrike, calling the move America’s “biggest mistake in west Asia” and threatening “severe vengeance”.
Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in the US airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early on Friday, a move that has provoked a major escalation in US-Iran tensions.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has issued a statement vowing to retaliate “in the right place and time”.
“America should know that its criminal attack on General Soleimani has been the country’s biggest mistake in west Asia, and America will not avoid the consequences of this wrong calculation easily,” it said.
“These criminals will face severe vengeance… in the right place and time,” it added.