U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general that he ordered killed with a drone strike, had been planning to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Trump and his aides have drawn sharp criticism from opposition Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans for refusing to disclose what they say was the "imminent threat" that Soleimani posed at the time he was killed in the car he was riding in at the airport in the Iraqi capital last week.
But Trump, speaking at the White House, offhandedly remarked, "We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy. We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died, one of our military people died. People were badly wounded just a week before."
Trump administration officials had previously blamed Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp's Quds Force, for killing American armed forces and the U.S. contractor Trump referenced, while fomenting unrest in Iraq and Lebanon. But they had balked at disclosing specific reasons for the killing of Soleimani. After background briefings this week, some lawmakers complained that evidence of an "imminent threat" posed by Soleimani was scant.
A senior U.S. Defense official said that when Trump was presented with options regarding Iranian threats, other proposals besides killing Soleimani would have involved the possibility of far more casualties.
Trump's remarks came as U.S. officials say they believe Iran intended to kill American forces with its ballistic missile attacks on bases in Iraq early Wednesday as retribution for the drone attack on Soleimani. Their assessment followed Trump's Wednesday White House address in which he said new economic sanctions would be imposed on Tehran, while concluding that Iran "appears to be standing down" from new conflict with the U.S.
"The ballistic missiles fired at American bases … we believe were intended to kill Americans," Vice President Mike Pence told the NBC news network Thursday. "We have intelligence to support that was the intention of the Iranians."
Pence's assessment echoed comments Wednesday from the top U.S. military leader, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who told reporters at the Pentagon, "The points of impact were close enough to personnel and equipment and so on and so forth. I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft, and to kill personnel."
Source : VOA