WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was not in Baghdad pursuing a peaceful diplomatic mission when the US killed him in a drone attack last week.
“Is there any history that would indicate that it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order – Qassem Soleimani – had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission?” Pompeo told reporters. “We know that wasn’t true,” he added.
He added that attacks planned by Iranian military commander Soleimani “were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans,” after being asked to clarify his comments on Friday that they were “imminent.”
Pompeo also held Soleimani responsible for a Dec. 27 rocket attack in Iraq in which a US civilian contractor was killed.
“He was continuing the terror campaign in the region. We know what happened … in December, ultimately leading to the death of an American. So, if you are looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani,” he said.
Pompeo also accused Iran of working to thwart efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.
“Iran has refused to join the regional and international consensus for peace, and is, in fact, actively working to undermine the peace process by continuing its long global effort to support militant groups there,” he said at a State Department news conference.
Also on Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that the US wants to de-escalate the current tensions with Iran, but the country is ready to finish any war that could be started.
“We are not looking to start a war with Iran but we are prepared to finish one,” he said. “What we’d like to see is the situation de-escalated.”
Meanwhile, Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that the country’s military joint operations command eceived a letter from the US army concerning a possible withdrawal of its troops.
The letter’s English and Arabic language versions were not identical so Iraq had requested clarifications from Washington, Abdul Mahdi told a televised cabinet meeting.
He spoke two days after Iraqi lawmakers, with his support, voted for a resolution demanding a removal of all foreign forces from Iraq following the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport.