Qasem Soleimani: Trump says US killed ‘a monster’

President Donald Trump has said the US killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani saved a lot of lives, calling him a “monster”.

Mr Trump said Soleimani “was planning a big attack” when he was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last Friday.

But Mr Trump appeared to draw back from a threat to target Iran’s cultural sites should Tehran respond militarily.

Iran was burying Soleimani on Tuesday, but a stampede at the funeral killed 50 people and injured 200 more.

In remarks at the Oval Office, President Trump also addressed the issue of Iraq, saying a US withdrawal of troops would be the worst thing for the country.

His comments came in the wake of a letter, which the US military said had been sent in error, to Iraq’s prime minister, apparently agreeing to a request by Iraqi MPs to pull troops out.

Soleimani’s killing has raised fears of a conflict between the US and Iran.

What are Mr Trump’s latest comments?

The president strongly defended the US drone strike, saying it was a case of retaliation.

“He was a monster. And he’s no longer a monster. He’s dead,” Mr Trump said. “He was planning a big attack and bad attack for us. I don’t think anyone can complain about it.”

president said Soleimani had been “travelling with the head of Hezbollah” and a “lot of lives had been saved by killing him”. Mr Trump was probably referring to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah militia group, who died alongside Soleimani.

Mr Trump also discussed the issue of Iran’s cultural sites. He had earlier vowed to hit them “very fast and hard” if Iran carried out revenge attacks.

But the UN and even his own top aides accepted this would contravene international laws the US had signed up to, with others describing it as a war crime.

Mr Trump said that “according to various laws” the US should not target these cultural sites. “You know what, if that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” he said.

On Iraq, Mr Trump said he would like to withdraw troops at some point but “this isn’t the right point”.

On another of his earlier threats – to hit Iraq with sanctions if it told the US to leave – he said he would only do this if the US were not treated with respect.

and the US have said troops are being redeployed in Iraq amid concern for possible revenge attacks.



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