WASHINGTON: Thousands more US troops were ordered to the Middle East on Friday (Jan 3) after the United States assassinated Iran’s military mastermind and Tehran promised “severe revenge.”
President Donald Trump 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,” Trump said in Florida.
While referring to the key Iranian figure, killed in a US air attack earlier Friday in Iraq’s capital Baghdad, as “sick,” Trump attempted to lower tensions by insisting that he does not want war with Iran.
“We did not take action to start a war,” he said, adding: “We do not seek regime change.”
Iran, smarting from the loss of arguably the second most important leader in the country, erupted.
As head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, Soleimani was a powerful figure domestically and pointman for sophisticated and wide-ranging Iranian involvement in regional power struggles – and anti-US forces.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly promised “severe revenge” and tens of thousands of protesters in Tehran torched US flags and chanted “death to America.”
US officials said Soleimani, 62, was killed by a missile fired from a drone when he was near Baghdad’s international airport.
Five Revolutionary Guards were killed, along with five members of a pro-Iranian paramilitary force in Iraq, the Hashed al-Shaabi, including their deputy chief.