President Trump on Friday said the killing of Iran’s top general, carried out by a US drone strike in Baghdad on Thursday 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.