Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad last week, prompting Iran to launch missiles at Iraqi military bases that contained U.S. troops on the night of Jan. 7. No casualties were reported.
“I will say this, we caught a total monster. We took him out,” Trump said of Soleimani, who was the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force. “That should have happened a long time ago. We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy.”
Trump’s remark about Soleimani’s alleged U.S. Embassy plot is the clearest comment yet from the White House about what Soleimani was intending to do in Iraq. Top Pentagon and State Department officials have revealed little about the details, which has drawn criticism from several members of Congress who have said they should have been briefed before the Soleimani drone strike.
“We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died, one of our military people died,” Trump told reporters, referring to the U.S. military contractor who was killed in an attack launched by the Iran-backed terror group Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq in December 2019.
Trump told reporters that if Soleimani were to continue unchecked, a hostage situation may have unfolded.
“I believe that we would’ve had a hostage situation, or we would have had worse, a lot of people killed,” he said.
In the days leading up to the airstrike, mobs of people tried to breach the U.S. Embassy in Iraq after the United States struck several Kataib Hezbollah targets in the country.
About an hour before Trump spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is aiming to push to vote for a resolution meant to place restrictions on the White House’s ability to take military action without congressional approval.
“The administration conducted a provocative and disproportionate airstrike against Iran which endangered Americans,” she said. “We have no illusions about Iran. But it’s not about how bad they are. It’s about how good we are,” Pelosi also told reporters.
When she was asked about whether a debate on war powers would embolden Tehran, she offered a strong response.
“That’s foolish,” she said. “That’s completely foolish.”
The United States will not seek to retaliate against Iran after it launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases, Trump said in a televised address on Jan. 8. Instead, his administration will place stronger sanctions on Tehran.