President Donald Trump speaks during an "Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch" at King Jesus International Ministry, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Miami. (Photo: AP)
Washington DC (People’s Daily) – US President Donald Trump said on Friday he ordered the killing of powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani to stop a war.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said, noting the action was at his direction.
In the early hours of Friday, Baghdad time, Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, which is an important unit of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and has 10,000 to 20,000 members, was killed in a US airstrike on Baghdad International Airport.
Trump said that Soleimani was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks” on American diplomats and military personnel. He said that for years the Quds Force has “injured and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen.”
Iran has vowed “harsh retaliation” against the US, but Trump said he is “prepared to take whatever action is necessary.”
Although Trump said that the killing of Soleimani was to stop a war, the US is sending more troops to the Middle East. According to the AP, nearly 3,000 Army troops from the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina were being deployed to the Mideast as reinforcements.
They are in addition to about 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who were sent to Kuwait earlier this week. Now, there are about 5,200 US troops in Iraq.
According to the AP, an official said the US could also send anywhere between 130 to 700 additional troops from Italy to Beirut to protect the US embassy in Lebanon.
The US State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken Friday with top officials in Afghanistan, Britain, China, France, Germany and Pakistan.
Tensions between the Washington and Tehran are expected to escalate following Soleimani’s assassination.
In light of Iran’s threat of a harsh retaliation, the US State Department has urged US citizens to leave Iraq immediately. Meanwhile, US embassies in Bahrain, Nigeria and Kuwait have also advised American citizens in those countries to be on high alert.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called the US attack a “cowardly terrorist action” and said Iran has the right to respond, “in any method and any time.”
Tens thousands of worshippers in the Iranian capital Tehran took to the streets after Friday Muslim prayers to condemn the killing, waving posters of Soleimani and chanting “Death to deceitful America.”