New book says Trump feared assassination by Iran in revenge for Soleimani killing

A year after ordering hit on senior Iranian general, Trump reportedly told friends he was worried about Iranian retaliation

Then-US president Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, on July 7, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Then-US president Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, on July 7, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)

During his last days in office, former US president Donald Trump expressed concerns to friends that Iran would try to assassinate him in revenge for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which he’d ordered the previous year, according to a new book.

The Guardian on Wednesday published excerpts from “The Divider,” by journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, which examines the former president’s turbulent tenure in the White House.

The book looks closely at the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran.

Publicly, the former president seemed to gloat after the successful strike on Soleimani, calling the slain Iranian general “a bad guy” and saying “We stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold.

“He was a bloodthirsty terrorist, and he’s no longer a terrorist. He’s dead.”

In private, however, he wasn’t so confident, according to Baker and Glasser’s book. About a year after the strike, in December 2020, Trump left a cocktail party in Florida, telling his friends he was afraid of Iranian retaliation.

“At a cocktail party, Trump told several of his Florida friends he was afraid Iran would try to assassinate him, so he had to go back to Washington where he would be safer,” the book states.

Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

This incident apparently took place shortly after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to avenge Soleimani and hold those behind his killing accountable.

“Those who ordered the murder of General Suleimani, as well as those who carried this out, should be punished. This revenge will certainly happen at the right time,” Khamenei tweeted on December 16, 2020.

Returning to Washington, Trump then began shifting his focus toward the elections and pressuring his vice-president, Mike Pence, to block electoral college results confirming his defeat to Joe Biden, Baker and Glasser wrote.

Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meets family of Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq, during a visit at his home in Tehran, Iran, January 3, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

Soleimani, 62, was killed on January 3, 2020, in a US airstrike carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone. He was struck while traveling from Baghdad’s international airport.

Confirming his death at the time, the US Department of Defense said “Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” The IRGC is a US-designated terrorist organization.

The attack came hours after then-US defense secretary Mark Esper said that Washington was ready to step up activities to push Iran-backed forces out of Iraq, including pre-emptive strikes.

The assassination marked a major escalation in a simmering conflict between the US and Iran. Several days after the general’s death, Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq. The Pentagon said dozens of troops suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result.

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