RNA - In a brief address from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday Trump said Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani should have been targeted and killed “long ago.”
“What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved,” Trump said. “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.”
NEW: Pres. Trump on U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian commander: "We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war." https://t.co/r0uf4IsxdF pic.twitter.com/jzW7n5WSLX
— ABC News (@ABC) January 3, 2020
‘We do not seek regime change’
Trump then emphasized that his administration does not “seek regime change” in Iran.
“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,” he said.
Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were killed in US airstrikes in the Iraqi capital Baghdad early on Friday. The US strike took place at the Baghdad International Airport, killing eight other people.
The Pentagon said Trump had ordered Gen. Soleimani's assassination.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei promised "severe revenge" for the death of the military commander. Ayatollah Khamenei said the “cruelest people on earth” assassinated the “honorable” commander who “courageously fought for years against the evils and bandits of the world.”
‘Trump tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox’
Democratic presidential candidates on Friday condemned Trump from ordering the deadly strike saying his decision was reckless and could lead the United States to another war in the Middle East.
"President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox," former US Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.
At a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, he added that "the prospect of direct conflict with Iran is greater than it has ever been."
Trump’s move ‘brings us closer to another disastrous war’
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also issued a stark warning about Trump's decision.
He said the move "brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars."
"Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one," Sanders said during an address to supporters in Anamosa, Iowa.
“Trump makes decisions impulsively and without any congressional consultation. Congress needs to reassert its authority over matters of war. Our Founding Fathers had it right,” he said.
‘We're not here by accident’
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren warned, "We're on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East.”
"We're not here by accident. We're here because a reckless president, his allies and his administration have spent years pushing us here,” she added.
The assassination of Gen. Soleimani came as the US military said on Sunday it had carried out strikes in western Iraq against the Kataib Hezbollah group, which is part of the pro-government Popular Mobilization Units.
Iraqi security sources said at least 25 fighters were killed and at least 55 wounded following the air attacks.
Caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called the move a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region” in a statement on Sunday.