Trump tells GOP donors Soleimani was ‘saying bad things’ about US before death
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'They have approximately 1 minute to live, sir. 30 seconds.'

Trump tells GOP donors Soleimani was ‘saying bad things’ about US before death

President says Soleimani bad-mouthing led to his decision to authorize the drone strike that killed him, CNN reports

US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, January 14, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP/Jeffrey Phelps)
US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, January 14, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP/Jeffrey Phelps)

US President Donald Trump recently gave a minute-by-minute account to GOP donors of the drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3, telling them the top Iranian general was “saying bad things” about the US.

CNN, which said it obtained audio of the remarks, reported that Trump was speaking to top Republican donors during a fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s South Florida estate.

According to CNN, Trump said Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” which led to his decision to authorize the drone strike that killed him. “He was saying things like ‘we’re going to attack your country, we’re going to kill your people.”

“How much of this shit do we have to listen to?” Trump asked, according to CNN. “How much are we going to listen to?”

The US president said Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ extraterritorial Quds Force, was a “noted terrorist” who was “down our list” and described how he watched remotely as the Iranian commander arrived at Baghdad International Airport on January 3, where he was met by Iraqi Shia paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a group supported by Iran.

Mourners holding posters of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani attend a funeral ceremony for him and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike on Friday, at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) Square in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Trump mistakenly referred to Muhandis as the “head of Hezbollah” — the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group is separate from Kata’ib Hezbollah — and said the strike took out “two for the price of one.”

“They’re together sir,” Trump told the GOP donors, recalling what the military officials were saying. “Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds. No emotion. ‘2 minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car, they’re in an armored vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. 30 seconds. 10, 9, 8 …'”

“Then all of a sudden, boom,” Trump said. “‘They’re gone, sir. Cutting off.'”

“I said, where is this guy?” he went on. “That was the last I heard from him.”

Soleimani “was supposed to be invincible,” Trump said, acknowledging that the strike “shook up the world.”

The killing led to increased tensions with Iran, which was already high over the US pullout from the 2015 nuclear agreement and the reimposition of sanctions.

The Trump administration defended the drone killing of Soleimani, with officials first saying the operation was carried out to prevent an “imminent” unspecified attack against the US.

In response to the US drone strike, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting US troops in Iraq. The New York Times reported on Friday that eight Americans troops were injured in Iran’s retaliatory strikes, despite Trump’s statements that no Americans had been injured.

As Iran’s Revolutionary Guard braced for an American counterattack that never came, it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian jetliner on January shortly after it took off from Tehran’s international airport, killing all 176 passengers on board, mostly Iranians.

Authorities concealed their role in the tragedy for three days, initially blaming the crash on a technical problem. When it came, their admission of responsibility triggered days of street protests, which security forces dispersed with live ammunition and tear gas

After Soleimani was killed, Iran announced it would no longer be bound by the limitations in the nuclear agreement. European countries who have been trying to salvage the deal responded earlier this week by invoking a dispute mechanism that is aimed at bringing Iran back into compliance and could result in even more sanctions.

War of words

On Friday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at Western countries as he led prayers in Tehran for the first time in eight years, dismissing “American clowns” who he said pretend to support the Iranian nation but want to stick their “poisoned dagger” into its back.

Khamenei used his rare appearance at the weekly prayers to deliver a fiery address in which he insisted Iran would not bow to US pressure after months of crushing sanctions and a series of recent crises.

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, leads the Friday prayers at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Khamenei said the mass funerals for Soleimani show that the Iranian people support the Islamic Republic despite its recent trials. He said the “cowardly” hit on Soleimani had taken out the most effective commander in the battle against the Islamic State group.

Khamenei said Iran’s retaliatory strike against the US dealt a “blow to America’s image” as a superpower. In the part of his sermon delivered in Arabic, he said the “real punishment” would be in forcing the US to withdraw from the Middle East.

Trump later tweeted a sharp response to Khamenei: “The so-called ‘Supreme Leader’ of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe. Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!”

Khamenei has held the country’s top office since 1989 and has the final say on all major decisions. The 80-year-old leader openly wept at the funeral of Soleimani and vowed “harsh retaliation” against the United States.

Thousands of people attended the Friday prayers, occasionally interrupting his speech by chanting “God is greatest!” and “Death to America!”

Khamenei last delivered a Friday sermon in February 2012, when he called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and vowed to support anyone confronting it. He also warned against any U.S. strikes on Iran over its nuclear program, saying the US would be damaged “10 times over.”

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