President Donald Trump on Friday said top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was “terminated” when he was on the verge of attacking US diplomats but he insisted that Washington is not seeking to topple Iran’s government.
“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump said in a statement before television cameras in Florida.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” he said, adding: “We do not seek regime change.”
Reacting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said Soleimani was planning imminent action that threatened American citizens when the general 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.
Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) foreign operations arm, was killed by an air raid on Baghdad international airport.