Iranian military leader was plotting ‘imminent’ and ‘sinister’ attack on U.S. interests, Trump says

‘But we caught him in the act,’ the president said 1 day after the killing of Soleimani in Iraq

President Donald Trump makes a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 3. Trump said America does not seek regime change or war with Iran, less than a day after the U.S. launched an airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump makes a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 3. Trump said America does not seek regime change or war with Iran, less than a day after the U.S. launched an airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Posted January 3, 2020 at 3:55pm

President Donald Trump on Friday defended his attack that killed a top Iranian military commander, saying Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was plotting an “imminent” and “sinister” attack on American interests.

The U.S. commander in chief said in a statement from his South Florida resort that the attack Soleimani was allegedly planning would have put American military personnel in the region at risk. “But we caught him in the act,” Trump said minutes before he was scheduled to leave for a political event with evangelical supporters in Miami.

[Iranian Quds commander’s assassination to follow Trump back to Washington]

“Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous towards terrorists,” he said. “We will find you, we will eliminate you.”

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The Quds Force — part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which Trump’s administration in April dubbed a terrorist organization — that Soleimani commanded has killed “hundreds” of Americans, Trump said, pinning a recent attack in Iraq that killed an American contractor on the Quds leader.

Trump said the attack he ordered was meant to prevent a war rather than start one. Trump reiterated his long-espoused stance that he does not seek regime change in Tehran. But he did say the Iranian government’s support for proxy forces across the Middle East that help destabilize the region “must end — and it must end now.”

“The future belongs to the people of Iran, those who seek peaceful … cooperation,” he said, not its leaders who seek to cause “bloodshed” around the world. But Trump warned he is “ready and prepared” to strike a list of already identified Iranian targets unless Tehran changes its tactics.

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