President Donald Trump defended Friday his decision to eliminate Iran General Qasem Soleimani with a military airstrike.
“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,” Trump confirmed during a statement at his club at Mar-a-Lago.
The president denied that his action was intended to provoke Iran, but rather to prevent further attacks and violence backed by the regime.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” he said, adding that “we do not seek regime change” in Iran.
Trump spoke at Mar-a-Lago for about four minutes before leaving for a campaign event featuring evangelical supporters of his re-election, and he did not take questions from the press.
The president said that Soleimani was in the process of planning “imminent and sinister attacks” on United States diplomats and members of the military.
“We caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump said.
The president noted that Iran had backed militia attacks in Iraq against American targets including the recent attacks on the American embassy in Baghdad.
“Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion,” Trump said, adding, “We remember and honor the victims of Soleimani’s many atrocities and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over.”
Trump said Soleimani was responsible for decades of violence in the Middle East, including leading the brutal crackdown of over 1,000 Iranian protesters.
“What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago,” Trump said. “A lot of lives would have been saved.”
Trump explained that killing Soleimani was one more example of his commitment to defeating terrorism in the Middle East.
“Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American,” he said. “We will find you. We will eliminate you.”
The president defended the United States intelligence community and the military as the best in the world and promised to defend American citizens overseas.
“If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary,” he said.