WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday that Iranian military leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani was plotting "imminent and sinister attacks" on American diplomats and military personnel before he was killed in a military strike in Baghdad.
Speaking to reporters at his private resort in Florida, Trump said he does not seek war with Iran but is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to guarantee the safety of Americans.
“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said. “We did not take action to start a war.”
Trump said he does not seek regime change in Iran. But, "I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary," he said.
Later, at a campaign event with evangelicals in Miami, Trump told a cheering crowd that Soleimani’s “bloody rampage” is over.
“We’ve ensured that his atrocities have been stopped for good,” Trump said. “He was planning a very major attack, and we got him.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said the United States will send about 3,000 more soldiers to the Middle East to bolster existing forces. The soldiers will come from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Earlier Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the attack that killed Soleimani was in response to "an intelligence-based assessment."
"He was actively planning in the region," Pompeo said on CNN, adding the U.S. action "saved American lives."
Pompeo declined to disclose specific details of the intelligence but said the threats were not aimed at the U.S. soil.
“These were threats located in the region,” Pompeo said
The State Department urged all American citizens to leave Iraq "immediately" as Washington braced for what happens next after the airstrike, which drew strong condemnation from Iran and threatens to escalate tensions with the U.S.
The agency warned Americans to stay away from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and suspended all public consular activities "until further notice." The warning followed days of sometimes violent protests by Iranian-backed militia members and their supporters, who smashed their way into the embassy compound to protest U.S. airstrikes that killed at least two dozen Iran-backed fighters in Iraq.