President Trump issued a stern warning to Iran Saturday through a series of tweets to deter the country from retaliating after the U.S.-ordered airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani Thursday.
“Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters,” Trump tweeted.
The president continued: “He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years.”
Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was killed in an airstrike Thursday in Iraq that was ordered by President Trump.
“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” Trump said Saturday, explicitly laying out that the U.S. will act if Iran retaliates.
Following Soleimani’s death, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said “harsh retaliation is waiting for the criminals whose filthy hands spilled his blood.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to “take revenge for this heinous crime.”
The Iran-backed militias that spawned in Iraq, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have been quick to threaten prompt revenge on U.S. personnel and interests. Slaughtered alongside Soleimani at the airport was his close confidante Abu Mahdi al-Mohandas, the deputy head of the PMF.
Trump has made it clear that he expected the Iranians to stop threatening the United States.
“The USA wants no more threats!” Trump had tweeted.
Soleimani was wiped out in the early hours of Friday morning at Baghdad International Airport. President Trump, who authorized the strike, on Friday accused Soleimani of planning “imminent and sinister attacks”.
“We took action to stop a war,” Trump said during brief remarks at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “We did not take action to start a war.”
Without divulging details about what led to the early morning airstrike that killed Soleimani and nine others, the president said the United States “caught” the general “in the act and terminated him.”
“Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion,” Trump added, saying that “what the U.S. did yesterday should have been done long ago.”
The killing of Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, marks a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Tehran, which has careened from one crisis to another since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.
Senior State Department officials described the killing as a defensive strike supported by solid intelligence and claimed Soleimani was planning imminent attacks against United States interests and personnel in the region.
The officials said the attacks were being planned in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and targeted U.S. diplomats, military personnel and facilities that house Americans. They claimed hundreds of Americans could have been killed.
Iran, in response, has vowed “harsh retaliation” for the strike, with Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards in the southern province of Kerman, threatening an attack on some 35 “American targets,” including “destroyers and warships” near the Persian Gulf.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there,” Abuhamzeh said according to a Reuters report, citing Tasnim news agency.
“Vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago … some 35 U.S. targets in the region, as well as Tel Aviv, are within our reach.”