Trump on Soleimani killing: ‘We took action last night to stop a war’

The United States killed Iran’s top general on Thursday, marking a profound escalation in tensions between America and Iran that prompted speculation of a new Middle Eastern war.

President Donald Trump has received praise for taking swift and decisive action to take out Qassim Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful officials and the leader of the regime’s foreign operations throughout the Middle East. But Democrats and some conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, warned of the risks of entering another costly war in the desert.

In a speech Friday, Trump declared, “Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qasem Soleimani.”

“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said. “We did not take action to start a war.”

Trump touts death of Iranian leader

Leader of the elite Quds force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is considered a terror group by America, Soleimani was crucial to Iran’s foreign operations. The gravity of his death was not understated by the State Department or foreign policy pundits, who said that he was an irreplaceable strategic asset and the mastermind behind Iran’s proxy operations throughout the Middle East.

The Iranian leader was eliminated in a drone strike near Baghdad’s airport in Iraq that the State Department described as a defensive. It came just days after an attack on the U.S. embassy in the city by Iranian-backed militia, and follows months of deteriorating relations between Washington and Tehran that culminated in tit-for-tat strikes that killed one American contractor and 25 Iranian-backed militiamen in December.

Soleimani has been described as a ruthless terrorist who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in the Iraq War. The State Department and Pentagon said that Soleimani was behind the recent ambush on America’s embassy in Baghdad and a strike on an Iraqi base that killed the American contractor — and was planning fresh attacks on Americans throughout the Middle East.

In a speech Friday, Trump said that Soleimani was a “monster” who was killed in a preemptive strike against “imminent” planned attacks that followed months of Iranian provocations. The president sought to downplay concerns about a new war with Iran, saying that America is not seeking regime change.

“The future belongs to the people of Iran, those who seek peaceful coexistence and cooperation, not the terrorist warlords who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad,” Trump said.

Speculation of war

The killing prompted immediate speculation of a new war in the Middle East, as Iran ordered three days of public mourning and promised revenge for the killing. Oil prices and defense stocks shot up, the State Department warned all Americans in Iraq to evacuate immediately and some 3,500 troops were deployed to the region — although the Pentagon said the deployments had nothing to do with the strike on Soleimani.

Many Republicans praised Trump for taking a long-overdue action to kill a terrorist who threatened American safety and interests, but many Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Tucker Carlson, warned of plunging America into a more destructive repeat of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, now widely regarded as the greatest foreign policy blunder in modern American history. Democrats blamed Trump for risking an escalation in tensions and criticized him for not seeking Congressional authority for the strike.

But the State Department has said that Soleimani’s death will significantly weaken Iran’s morale and strategic capabilities. Soleimani was a dog — but no one knows what will happen next.

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