US President Donald Trump said Friday that he believes Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks against four US embassies before he was killed last week in an American airstrike in Baghdad.
“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies,” Trump said in an excerpt from an interview due to air Friday night on Fox News. “Probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad.” The remarks added some detail to a series of often vague claims made by US officials when asked why Trump, who faces an impeachment trial and a tough reelection fight, ordered the high-risk operation to kill Soleimani.
The administration has pushed back against accusations that Trump acted recklessly, insisting that Soleimani was on the brink of launching an attack and had to be stopped.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US had “specific information” on “imminent” attacks “against American facilities, including American embassies, military bases.”
In response to the January 3 strike on Soleimani, Iran on Wednesday fired volleys of ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops, without causing casualties.
While Trump said he would not respond further militarily, Washington is intent on maintaining pressure on Tehran, announcing new sanctions on Iran’s already crippled economy.
The sanctions mean “we will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
The measures targeting Iran’s steel industry and eight state officials came on top of massive sanctions already aimed at bringing the country’s economy to its knees.
The US has been at loggerheads with Iran, a fierce regional rival of American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, for decades.
Soon after Trump came into office he withdrew from an international accord meant to give Iran the ability to develop civilian nuclear power while under supervision. Trump accused Tehran of cheating and trying to obtain a nuclear weapon.