Posted by News Express | 4 January 2020 | 1,014 times
Speaking publicly for the first time since defense officials confirmed Soleimani was the target of a U.S. strike near Baghdad International Airport on Friday, Trump also warned Iran that it risked more strikes if it continued to target Americans.
"We took action last night to stop a war," Trump told reporters at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. "However, the Iranian regime's aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors, must end and it must end now."
Trump blamed Soleimani for the deaths of thousands of Americans, Iraqis and Iranians, saying the longtime regime general "made the death of innocent people his sick passion" while helping to run a terror network that reached across the Middle East to Europe and the Americas.
"We take comfort in knowing his reign of terror is over," the president said, adding the U.S. had already identified additional Iranian targets.
"If Americans anywhere are threatened … I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary," he said.
Iraqi officials said another airstrike early Saturday, carried out about 24 hours after the one that killed Soleimani, targeted a convoy carrying Iran-backed militia north of Baghdad and killed at least five people. There was no immediate confirmation of the strike from Washington.
So far, U.S. officials have given few details about the strike that killed Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
But White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien told reporters late Friday that Soleimani's travel plans played a role in the timing.
"He had just come from Damascus, [Syria,] where he was planning attacks on American soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats," O'Brien said.
Speaking separately, a senior State Department official said the strike was "supported by very solid intelligence."
"Soleimani was planning imminent attacks against American diplomats and our armed forces members in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and in the region," the official added.
The comments by senior U.S. officials came as fresh U.S. troops were setting up in Kuwait, part of Washington's plan to protect bases and personnel across the Middle East in anticipation of Iranian-directed violence.
About 750 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's Immediate Response Force touched down at Salem Air Base on Friday, with U.S. defense officials confirming the force's remaining 3,000 troops were on their way.
A Defense Department spokesperson called the order for the additional soldiers "an appropriate and precautionary action," citing "increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the 3,000 soldiers had been put on notice earlier in the week, telling reporters Thursday that the Pentagon would deploy more forces "as needed."
The deployment came as Iranian officials and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq amplified their calls for revenge after the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani. (VOA)
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