Pompeo: Strike on Soleimani disrupted ‘imminent’ attack, saved hundreds
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Pompeo: Strike on Soleimani disrupted ‘imminent’ attack, saved hundreds

Secretary of state says Iranian general was plotting a ‘big action’ that would’ve led to many deaths, stresses US ‘committed to de-escalation’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a statement on Iraq and Syria, at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property, December 29, 2019, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a statement on Iraq and Syria, at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property, December 29, 2019, in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted Friday that the US killed Iran’s top military commander to disrupt an “imminent” attack orchestrated by him that would have put hundreds of lives at risk.

Pompeo told CNN that the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, “was actively plotting in the region to take actions, the big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent. This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process.”

The secretary of state did not say where or when the attack had been expected to take place. He told Fox that in the attack “there would have been many Muslims killed as well, Iraqis, people in other countries as well.”

Pompeo also told Fox that he hopes Iran “will see American resolve and that their decision will be to de-escalate, to take actions consistent with what normal nations do. And in the event that they do not, in the event they go the other direction, I know that President Trump and the entire United States government is prepared to respond appropriately.’’

In this March 27, 2015, file photo provided by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani prays in a religious ceremony at a mosque in the residence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

He tweeted that he had spoken with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi about the killing.

“Thankful that our allies recognize the continuing aggressive threats posed by the Iranian Quds Force,” Pompeo wrote. “The US remains committed to de-escalation.”

The United States announced earlier that it had killed the commander of the Islamic Republic’s Quds Force in a strike on Baghdad’s international airport.

The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

Pro-Iranian demonstrators laid siege to the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, angered by US weekend air strikes that killed two dozen fighters from the hardline Kataeb Hezbollah paramilitary group.

The strikes were in response to a rocket attack last week that killed an American contractor working in Iraq.

The Pentagon said Soleimani had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past few months, including on December 27, the day the contractor was killed.

Soleimani “also approved the attacks” on the US embassy in Baghdad, according to the Pentagon.

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