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White House defends rationale for killing Soleimani

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on January 7, 2020 - Duration: 02:09s

White House defends rationale for killing Soleimani

President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper came out Tuesday to rationalize the administration's decision to authorize a strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Jonah Green reports.

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White House defends rationale for killing Soleimani

Amid a massive outpouring of grief and fury in the streets of Iran, and with tensions between Washington and Tehran bubbling over, the White House came out in full force on Tuesday, defending President Donald Trump's decision to authorize a drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: (SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, SAYING: "The president had an entirely legal, appropriate basis as well as a decision that fit perfectly within our strategy on how to counter the threat of malign activity from Iran more broadly." Soleimani's killing has sharply escalated tensions with Iran, raising fears of all-out conflict.

Pompeo on Tuesday pushed back against doubts on the administration’s rationale for the attack.

Saying – again - that it killed Soleimani in self-defense, aiming to disrupt his plans to attack U.S. personnel and interests.

But America’s top diplomat was vague on the details.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, SAYING: "And then you, in an addition to that, have what we could clearly see were continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans." Likewise, President Trump offered little in specifics.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: “He’s been called a monster, and he was a monster.

And he’s no longer a monster.

He’s dead.

And that’s a good thing for a lotta countries.

And he was planning a very big attack and very bad attack for us and other people.

And we stopped him.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. was prepared for whatever comes next.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK ESPER, SAYING: “The United States is not seeking a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one.

We are seeking a diplomatic solution.

But first, this would require Iran to de-escalate.” President Trump on Saturday tweeted that should Iran attack U.S. interests, he would strike Iranian cultural sites.

That comment, which drew swift backlash, prompted the Pentagon to clarify that it would indeed follow the laws of armed conflict.

Trump on Tuesday begrudgingly agreed to follow international law.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: “Think of it, they kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions.

But I’m ok with it.

It’s ok with me." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the U.S. strike against Soleimani "state terrorism” and on Tuesday promised a strong response from Tehran.

(SOUNDBITE)(Farsi) IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, JAVAD ZARIF, SAYING: “The U.S. will receive the definitive resolute response to its brazen criminal act in a place and at a time where it hurts most." Zarif was due to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday, but was denied a visa to enter the US.

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