Trump defense chief: US not seeking war with Iran but 'prepared to finish one'

Trump defense chief: US not seeking war with Iran but 'prepared to finish one'
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Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperUS issues Iran sanctions to enforce UN action ignored by international community Top admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' MORE on Tuesday said that the United States is not looking to start a war with Iran but is “prepared to finish one.”

“The United States is not seeking a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one. We are seeking a diplomatic solution, but first this will require Iran to de-escalate. It will require the regime to come to the table with the goal of preventing further bloodshed,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. 

“We are open to having this discussion with them, but we are just as prepared to deliver a forceful response to defend our interests,” he added. “The architects of terror should know that we will not tolerate attacks against America’s people and interests and will exercise our right to self-defense should that become necessary once again.”

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Esper’s comments come after last week’s order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE to launch a drone strike that killed top Iranian official Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the elite Quds Force. 

Trump administration officials have said the strike was meant to prevent an "imminent" attack in the region but have provided no evidence.

Esper would not give details of such intelligence to reporters and would say only that an attack from Soleimani was assessed at being “days away.”

“He was a legitimate target, and his time was due,” Esper said.

The Pentagon chief also said U.S. forces would not withdraw from Iraq after the country's parliament voted over the weekend to push American troops out of the country.

“To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t seen any communication from [the Iraqi prime minister] or the Iraqi government about the legislation or about an order or a request to withdraw U.S. forces,” Esper said.

He said that since the strike on Soleimani, he has spoken with commanders on the ground in the region “to ensure they have the resources they need to protect their people and prepare for any contingencies. As a result we’ve increased our force protection postures across the region and will continue to reposition and bolster our forces as necessary.”