Trump says Soleimani should have been killed 'many years ago'
Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a us strike on Friday outside Baghdad airport.
WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump said Friday that Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani - who was assassinated in a US strike - should have been killed long before.
In his first substantial comments on the operation, carried out earlier Friday at Baghdad's international airport, Trump tweeted that Soleimani "should have been taken out many years ago!"
Soleimani "has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught!" Trump said.
General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
....of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020
His only earlier comments on the dramatic news included a tweet featuring a picture of a US flag and another, cryptic tweet stating that "Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!"
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that Soleimani was planning imminent action that threatened American citizens when he was killed in a US strike.
"He was actively plotting in the region to take actions - a big action, as he described it - that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk," Pompeo told CNN.
"We know it was imminent," Pompeo said of Soleimani's plot, without going into detail about the nature of the planned operation.
"This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process," Pompeo added.
Iran warned of "severe revenge" and said arch enemy the United States bore responsibility for the consequences after killing Soleimani.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed the commander of its Quds Force foreign operations arm had been killed by US forces in Baghdad, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denouncing it as a "dangerous escalation".
"The Revolutionary Guards announces that the glorious commander of Islam, haj Qasem Soleimani, following a life of servitude, was martyred in an attack by America on Baghdad airport this morning," the Guards said.
"Two vehicles were attacked with missiles by US forces" and all 10 passengers, including Soleimani, were "martyred", said Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi.
The Quds Force said the dead consisted of five members of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network and five Guards - Brigadier General Hossein Pourjafari, Colonel Shahroud Mozafarinia, Major Hadi Taremi and Captain Vahid Zamanian.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened "severe revenge" for "the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with (Soleimani's) blood", and vowed that "God willing, his work and his path will not be stopped".
He also declared three days of mourning.
State television interrupted its regular programming to detail Soleimani's achievements in the region, recalling the many times he had "foiled" US plans.
TRIBUTES POUR IN
A black ribbon was displayed on the screen and a photo montage was shown with images of Soleimani smiling and praying.
Soleimani was one of the most popular figures in Iran and seen as a deadly adversary by America and its allies.
President Hassan Rouhani said Iran and the "free nations of the region" would take revenge on the US for "this gruesome crime".
His death had "redoubled the determination of the nation of Iran and other free nations" to stand up to the US, Rouhani said.
Iran's top security body convened an emergency meeting.
The foreign ministry summoned an official from the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents US interests in Iran, to "strongly protest" the killing, according to ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
The Guards said they and the "resistance front" would "start a new chapter as of today".
"Certainly, the fleeting rejoicing of Americans and Zionists will turn into mourning before too long," Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told state television.
"We were saddened to hear the news... but our determination has increased to take revenge on the murderous America and oppressor Zionists and this will certainly happen."
After the interview, Sharif broke down in tears and he and the reporter embraced.
People on the streets of Tehran were concerned over the threat of war.
"Trump unfortunately acted deceitfully, saying that we won't go towards war but pushed the issue towarda war," said Hamid Ranjbar, a retired government employee.
Leaders "must exercise restraint so that tensions in this region don't increase further," he told AFP.
A lawyer named Hojati expressed concern about the future. "Violence begets violence," he said.
Zarif tweeted that "the US act of international terrorism, targeting and assassinating General Soleimani... is extremely dangerous and a foolish escalation".
"The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism," he added.
Zarif and his top aides held an urgent meeting to assess the situation, the ministry spokesman said.
A former Guards chief said revenge would be exacted on the United States.
"Soleimani joined his martyr brothers but we will exact terrible vengeance upon America," tweeted Mohsen Rezai, who currently heads the Expediency Council, a top state body.
Tehran-based analyst Mohammad Marandi said the US has "declared war" against Iran and Iraq, and "it's best for Westerners to evacuate countries like UAE and Iraq immediately".
"It is best for all American citizens to leave the region immediately. US occupiers will be forced to leave Iraq," he said.