- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday morning that the decision to kill the top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani had made the world “a much safer place today,” adding that Americans in the Middle East were also much safer.
- Pompeo rejected observations from allies and partners, namely France, that “we are waking up in a more dangerous world.”
- His comments came as the US Embassy in Baghdad issued a security alert urging Americans to flee the country “due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region.”
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Friday morning, just hours after the US military killed the top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, that “the world is a much safer place today.” Some allies and partners suggested otherwise, however, and Pompeo’s own government agency advised Americans to flee Iraq.
“The world is a much safer place today,” he said. “And I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer today after the demise of Qassem Soleimani.”
His comments came as the State Department urged American citizens in Iraq to leave immediately.
“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region,” the US Embassy in Baghdad said in a security alert Friday, “the US Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately.”
“US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land,” the embassy instructed.
Many observers, while acknowledging Soleimani’s crimes, have suggested that the killing of Soleimani risks igniting a powder keg in the region. “We are waking up in a more dangerous world,” France’s deputy minister of foreign affairs told local media on Friday.
Germany said “we are at a dangerous escalation point” as the United Kingdom warned that “further conflict is in none of our interests.”
Pompeo on Friday said observations indicating the world was somehow less safe than it was the day before were wrong.
The world awaits Iran’s response
In the wake of Soleimani’s death, the world now awaits Iran’s response. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter that “the great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.” Other Iranian officials and leaders have made similar threats and warnings.
In the Department of Defence statement claiming responsibility for the airstrike that killed Soleimani, the Pentagon said the Iranian general was responsible for many attacks on US personnel, including a recent rocket attack that killed a US civilian contractor and an attack on the US Embassy. The statement further accused Soleimani of “actively developing plans” to attack Americans in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement said.
Speaking Friday morning, Pompeo refused to elaborate on the threat that demanded the killing of a senior Iranian military official.
“I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats, but the American people should know that President Trump’s decision … saved American lives,” he told reporters, saying “it was the time to take this action” and “the risk of doing nothing was enormous.”
“There was in fact an imminent attack taking place,” he said, his explanation of the situation differing slightly from that of the Pentagon.
Much of the past year has been characterised by on-again, off-again tensions between the US and Iran, and since May the US has deployed about 15,000 additional troops to various parts of the US Central Command area operations in response.
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