U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said the United States killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani to stop a war.
Addressing newsmen in Florida, Trump alleged that Soleimani was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him”.
Blaming Soleimani for the death of hundreds of American civilians and servicemen, the president said he should have been killed long ago to save many lives.
“For years, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its ruthless Quds Force, under Soleimani’s leadership, has targeted, injured, and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen.
“The recent attacks on U.S. 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.
“Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London”, Trump said.
He said the late military general had been carrying out acts of terror to destabilise the Middle East for the last 20 years.
“Just recently, Soleimani led the brutal repression of protestors in Iran, where more than a thousand innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their own government.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.
“I have deep respect for the Iranian people. They are a remarkable people, with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential,” he said.
Trump noted that although the U.S. was not seeking a regime change in Iran, the “Iranian regime’s aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilise its neighbors, must end, and it must end now”.
There is tension in the Gulf over the killing, with Iran vowing “severe revenge” on those responsible.
Iran’s National Security Council has also vowed to effect “harsh vengeance” on the U.S. for the killing, the BBC reports.
“The U.S. regime will be responsible for the consequences of this criminal adventurism.
“This was the biggest US strategic blunder in the West Asia region, and America will not easily escape its consequences,” BBC quoted the council as saying in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has urged American citizens to “depart Iraq immediately” following the airstrike.
U.S. officials said thousands of additional troops would be deployed to the Middle East as a precaution.
World leaders, including UN Secretary General António Guterres, have called for restraint by all parties to prevent another war in the region.