The U.S. and Iran traded threats after the killing of the Islamic Republic’s most prominent military man by an American drone, with Tehran promising a protracted response and Washington warning against reprisals.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the relatives of assassinated general Qassem Soleimani on Saturday that “they won’t see the effects of their mistake today, but they will witness it over many, many years to come,” according to report by Iran’s state broadcaster. U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the Iranian regime should now start behaving like a “normal nation.”
President Donald Trump said he approved the strike in Iraq because Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” against American diplomats and military personnel. Pompeo told Fox News on Friday night that the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force was planning an attack of such scale that it would have killed a “significant amount” of Americans as well as possibly Lebanese and Syrians. He said he wasn’t able to discuss details.
The U.S. is sending about 2,800 troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne division to join roughly 700 troops dispatched to Kuwait earlier this week as part of the division’s rapid-reaction “ready battalion,” according to two U.S. officials who asked not to be identified discussing the deployment. The U.S. already had about 60,000 personnel in the region.
There is increasing concern that more nations will be drawn into a wider regional conflict as Iran threatens to avenge Soleimani, who led proxy militias that extended Iran’s power across the Middle East, by striking at U.S. interests and those of its allies.
The killing sent global markets reeling. Oil futures in London and New York at one point surged by more than 4%, gold hit the highest in four months and 10-year Treasury yields headed for the biggest drop in three weeks.
“We don’t seek war with Iran,” Pompeo said in an interview on Fox earlier on Friday. “But we, at the same time, are not going to stand by and watch the Iranians escalate and continue to put American lives at risk without responding in a way that disrupts, defends, deters and creates an opportunity to de-escalate the situation.”
On Friday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on Trump to produce the intelligence behind the assassination of Soleimani.
She told the Union Leader in a telephone interview that all Americans need to know Soleimani was a murderous “terrorist” responsible for the deaths of many U.S. and allied servicemen and women.
“This is the guy who for decades headed this special Iranian military force that has been responsible for attacks and the killing of American service members; he was the architect behind that,” Shaheen said. “This is a bad guy and I believe the world is going to be a safer place without him.”
Still, Trump needs to explain how the U.S. plans to react if Iran responds to the targeted assassination of its top terrorist, she said.
“What did they anticipate would be Iran’s response? What intelligence prompted this attack?” Shaheen said.
“I think the first thing we need is a briefing to make available to us all that intelligence,” she said. “The American people deserve to know why President Trump took this action. I know those requests have been made and I don’t think we have an answer to those requests.”
O’Brien said the administration would provide Congress retroactive notification of the Soleimani strike as well as classified briefings next week, when lawmakers return from a holiday break.
General Soleimani was killed in a car early Friday by a Reaper drone capable of firing laser-guided weapons as he was leaving a Baghdad airport access road, a U.S. official said. The strike also killed the deputy commander of an Iraqi militia group, the Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Forces, who was with Soleimani.
Union Leader reporter Kevin Landrigan contributed to this report.