U.S. President Trump speaking on Friday defended his decision to order an attack that killed Iran’s top general in Baghdad late on Thursday, as an act to “stop a war”.
Qassem Soleimani died in a drone attack as he arrived in Baghdad and was departing from the airport in a convoy hit by missiles from a U.S. drone.
"We took action to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war," Trump said at a press conference in Florida. He did not take questions after his remarks.
Trump and other U.S. officials had warned in Iran in recent days to refrain from “orchestrating” attacks on American personnel and interests.
However, in his remarks Trump also made a gesture to deescalate, saying, “We do not seek regime change in Iran.” However, he added that the US had tabs on its enemies and that he was "prepared to take any action that's necessary, and that in particular applies to Iran."
Trump faces criticism from Democrats for the attack that killed Soleimani, while republicans solidly back his decision.
U.S. allies, Russia and China as well several other countries have called for restraint and de-escalation. Iran’s proxy allies, however, have echoed Iran’s calls for avenging Soleimani’s death.
Trump also praised the Iranian people who he said had great “potential”. He blamed the country’s leaders for squandering the national wealth on foreign adventures and blamed Soleimani to have played a role in domestic suppression of decent.
Hundreds were killed by security forces during widespread protests in Iran last November.