US President Donald Trump has said that he ordered a precision strike to “terminate” a top Iranian commander who was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans, adding that the decision was one of deterrence rather than aggression.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said in a statement from his Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday, a day after a US drone strike on a Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani.Later, while at a Miami church for an Evangelicals for Trump event, the President said: “He was planning a very major attack and we got him.
“Iran, in a letter to the United Nations, called the attack state terrorism and an unlawful criminal act.Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, told CNN’s “Erin Burnett Out Front” that the attack was “tantamount to opening a war.” There will be revenge, he said.”The response for a military action is a military action. By whom? When? Where? That is for the future to witness,” he said.He said Washington has escalated a war it began when it pulled out of a nuclear deal with Tehran.”The US has started the economic war in — in May 2018. Last night, they started a military war. By assassinating, by an act of terror, against one of our top generals,” he told CNN.The move marks a major escalation in regional tensions that have pitted Tehran against Washington and its allies in the Middle East, raising the specter of further regional destabilization. The strike, condemned by Iran and its allies as an “assassination,” has been met with concern by European officials and the United Nations, who have called for de-escalation.The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed the strike killed Soleimani, who as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force became the architect of Tehran’s proxy conflicts in the Middle East.Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis — the deputy head of the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) — was also killed, according to a statement from the PMF, which said the pair “were martyred by an American strike.”
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, left, and Qasem Soleimani were killed in the US strike.Early Saturday, the group said another airstrike that targeted a convoy in the Taji area north of Baghdad killed and wounded a number of PMF members.The initial report indicates a medical units convoy was hit near Taji Stadium in Baghdad, the PMF said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.The Trump administration viewed Soleimani as a ruthless killer, and the President told reporters Friday that the general should have been taken out by previous presidents.The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies in several attacks in recent months.”General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement Thursday, calling the strike “decisive defensive” action aimed at deterring future Iranian attacks.The Pentagon blamed Soleimani and his Quds Force for attacks on coalition bases in Iraq in recent months, including the December 27 strike that culminated in the deaths of an American contractor and Iraqi personnel. He was also blamed for the December 31 US Embassy attack in Baghdad, and in addition to the hundreds killed in his time as a commander, thousands more were wounded, the Pentagon said.