President Trump on Friday said the killing of Iran’s top general, carried out by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad the day before, was long overdue.
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught!” the president tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Fla. “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself.
“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” Trump continued. “They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
In an interview in 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump didn’t appear to know who Soleimani was, and confused the military arm he led, the Quds Force, with the Kurds, an ethnic group in the region.
Trump ordered the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad’s airport that killed the 62-year-old Soleimani and several of his associates.
The White House said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
The initial Pentagon statement on the strike said it “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” In an interview on CNN Friday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a more urgent explanation, saying the attack headed off an “imminent threat to American lives.” He gave no details. Pompeo said “the world is a much safer place” with Soleimani gone.
“I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer,” Pompeo said.
But the State Department issued a warning urging Americans to “depart Iraq immediately.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrats complained that the airstrike was made without congressional authority, escalated tensions in the region and risked provoking war.
But at least one member of Congress was briefed on the airstrike before it happened: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who golfed with the president at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.
“I was briefed about the potential operation when I was down in Florida,” Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on “Fox & Friends.”
Trump also retweeted a post that suggested Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would have leaked the planned attack had he been briefed.
Meanwhile, thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran to protest Soleimani’s killing. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed a “harsh retaliation” against the United States.
Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted that “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” That was not the conclusion of the U.S. Defense Department’s 1,300-page report on the Iraq War, which was released last year. The study found that Iran was the only winner in the decades-long conflict.
Late Thursday, Trump tweeted the image of an American flag, which is currently pinned to the top of his Twitter feed.
Soleimani’s killing has alarmed U.S. allies.
“We are waking up in a more dangerous world,” said Amélie de Montchalin, France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs.
Iraq’s prime minister condemned the strike, which also killed Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander who holds an official position is considered aggression on Iraq,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said while calling on parliament to convene an extraordinary session to “take legislative steps and necessary provisions to safeguard Iraq’s dignity, security and sovereignty.”
Trump responded in a tweet later Friday morning.
“The United States has paid Iraq Billions of Dollars a year, for many years,” the president tweeted. “That is on top of all else we have done for them. The people of Iraq don’t want to be dominated & controlled by Iran, but ultimately, that is their choice. Over the last 15 years, Iran has gained more and more control over Iraq, and the people of Iraq are not happy with that. It will never end well!”
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