Qasem Soleimani's 'reign of terror' over, says Donald Trump
Defending the killing of top Iranian commander in a US strike, President Donald Trump on Friday said the "reign of terror is over" and claimed Qasem Soleimani had contributed to "terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London."
General Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed following a US airstrike at Baghdad's international airport on Friday. The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.
"The recent attacks on US targets in Iraq, including rocket strikes that killed an American and injured four American servicemen very badly, as well as a violent assault on our embassy in Baghdad, were carried out at the direction of Soleimani, Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
"Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London. Today we remember and honour the victims of Soleimani's many atrocities and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over, he said.
Trump alleged that Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years.
"What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved. Just recently Soleimani led the brutal repression of protesters in Iran, where more than 1,000 innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their own government, he said.
Amidst escalation of tension with Iran, Trump claimed Soleimani's killing will not lead to war.
"We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war. I have deep respect for the Iranian people. They are a remarkable people with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential. We do not seek regime change, Trump said.
"However, the Iranian regime's aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbours, must end and it must end now. The future belongs to the people of Iran, those who seek peaceful co-existence and cooperation, not the terrorist warlords who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad, he said.
Trump said at his direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the "number one terrorist" anywhere in the world.
"Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him, he said.
"Under my leadership America's policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American. We will find you. We will eliminate you. We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans and our allies, Trump said.
"For years the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its ruthless Quds Force under Soleimani's leadership has targeted, injured and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen, he said in his remarks.
Trump said that the United States has the best military in the world.
"We have the best intelligence in the world. If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary. And that in particular refers to Iran, he said.
Under my leadership we have destroyed the ISIS territorial caliphate, and recently American special operations forces killed the terrorist leader known as al-Baghdadi. The world is a safer place without these monsters, the president said.