Former acting CIA director: 'There will be dead Americans' as result of Soleimani killing

Former acting and Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell on Friday warned that President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE’s decision to kill a top Iranian general will lead to “dead civilian Americans.”

Morell told “CBS This Morning” that the drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport will trigger a deadly response from the Iranian government, which has already warned that the U.S. will face “harsh retaliation.”

"Soleimani was an evil genius. He had a lot of American blood on his hands. The world is a better place without him. The problem is that comes at a very high cost," Morell said.

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"Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this, possibly over the next few days, in any place where Iran has its proxies. Iraq is the most likely place but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East," he added.

Morell added that the killing of Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, sets a “precedent that senior officials are fair game in this hybrid, not-yet-at-war kind of scenario.”

He added that if Iran wanted to respond “rationally,” it would not launch a military strike on American forces because it would lose. Instead, Morell predicted that Iran will instruct its allies and proxies in the region “to go after civilians.”

"At a time and place of their choosing, they're going to conduct a terrorist strike that kills a senior American official," Morell said.

He also warned that an attack of that nature could occur anywhere in the world, even on American soil.

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"Lebanese Hezbollah, which is one of [Iran's] closest allies, has contingency plans, and those include plans in the United States against U.S. targets," Morell said. "Such a terrorist attack could occur soon."

The former CIA director concluded that while it is beneficial that Soleimani has been killed, the decision to take the top Iranian leader comes at “an extraordinarily high price.”

"That's why the Bush administration and the Obama administration chose not to do something like this," he added.

Soleimani, a long-feared adversary, was in charge of directing Iranian proxies across the Middle East, including several Shiite militias in Iraq. He is suspected of being responsible, through Tehran-linked militias, for hundreds of U.S. casualties in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. 

Trump defended the strike against Soleimani on Friday, saying the Iranian general was responsible for the killing or wounding of “thousands” of Americans and was “plotting to kill many more.”

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq urged Americans to leave the country following the killing, and Britain warned its citizens to avoid all travel to Iraq and avoid all but essential travel to Iran.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Friday that the New York Police Department is on “high alert” for threats.