Trump says Iran was ‘looking to blow up our embassy’

President Trump said Thursday that the U.S. killed a top Iranian military commander in Iraq because Iran was “looking to blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy,” Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani a week ago.

“We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died, one of our military people died. People were badly wounded just a week before, and we did it,” Trump continued, pointing to the death of an American contractor killed in a rocket attack in Iraq.

“And we had a shot at him and I took it and that shot was pinpoint accurate, and that was the end of a monster,” Trump said of Soleimani.

When asked later to elaborate on his comments, Trump referred back to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at the end of December by pro-Iranian crowds protesting U.S. airstrikes against Shiite militia forces in Syria and Iraq. He described the effort as an “organized plot” aimed at destroying the American facility.

“If you look at those protesters, they were rough warriors, they weren’t protesters. They were Iranian-backed. Some were from Iraq, but they were Iranian-backed, absolutely,” Trump said. “They were looking to do damage, and they were breaking the windows.”

“Had they gotten through, I believe we would have had a hostage situation or worse. We would have had a lot of people killed,” the president said. “They were soldiers, they were warriors, and we stopped it.”

Trump described the assault on the embassy as a “totally organized plot” that Soleimani was behind, saying he “had more than that particular embassy in mind.”

The Trump administration has described the strike against Soleimani as a defensive measure, saying the general — who commanded Iran’s Quds Force, a designated terror group — had been planning imminent attacks that threatened American casualties.

Officials have declined to provide many of the details of the plots, citing the need to protect intelligence sources in methods. Democrats in Congress and two Republicans have complained about the lack of information provided by administration officials in classified briefings on the strike.

Trump and his administration have also pointed back to escalating provocations by Iran, including the Dec. 27 rocket attack that killed the American contractor in Iraq, when explaining the decision to kill Soleimani.

Soleimani is said to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops in the Middle East over the years, but the decision by the U.S. to launch a drone strike against him has prompted concerns about the stability of the region and the prospect of escalating military conflict. 

Iran retaliated for the Soleimani killing late Tuesday by launching more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops and coalition forces.

Trump announced Wednesday that no American or Iraqi lives were lost and that Iran appeared to be “standing down” in the wake of the missile attacks.

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