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Pompeo defends strike that killed Iranian military leader after Iran promises 'harsh retaliation'

Posted at 7:26 AM, Jan 03, 2020

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended a U.S. airstirke that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran's top military leaders.

"This was a man who has put American lives at risk for an awfully long time," Pompeo said during a Friday morning appearance on CNN. "Last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack that he was working actively was disrupted."

"What was sitting before us was his travels throughout the region, his efforts to make a significant strike against Americans," Pompeo said during an appearance on Fox News Friday morning. "It was a strike that was aimed at both disrupting that plot, deterring further aggression."

Pompeo also tweeted a video Thursday evening that reportedly showed Iraqis celebrating the death of Soleimani.

Pompeo's comments came hours after the Associated Press reported that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a "harsh retaliation is waiting" following the drone strike.

Soleimani was the leader of the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force — a division of Iran's army that ran clandestine operations around the world.

The Pentagon confirmed late Thursday that the airstrike that killed Soleimani was carried out at the request of President Donald Trump. The airstrike is sure to raise tensions between the two countries after years of eroding relations.

Following an Iran rocket attack that killed one American on Dec. 27, a U.S. airstrike killed 25 Iranian militia fighters. That U.S. strike prompted protests at the U.S. embassy in Iraq — while no one was killed or injured, protesters caused damage to some parts of the embassy and graffitied walls.

The events of recent weeks also come amid the backdrop of the U.S.'s decision in 2018 to leave a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018. Former President Barack Obama signed the deal with Iran in 2015, in which the country agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

In a string of Friday morning tweets, President Trump claimed “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation,” and said “Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…”

Trump announced the United States would abandon the plan in 2018 and later put economic sanctions back on Iran.

The State Department has advised that all U.S. citizens leave Iran immediately. Oil prices are expected to rise following the airstrike.