‘This is not an act of revenge for what he’d done in the past. This was a preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organizer of attacks yet to come…’
(Liberty Headlines) The United States is sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the Mideast as reinforcements in preparation for Iranian retaliation over the killing of a top general, defense officials said Friday.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet announced by the Pentagon, said the troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
They are in addition to about 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who deployed to Kuwait earlier this week after the storming of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters.
In response to the embassy siege, President Donald Trump ordered the airstrike late Thursday at Baghdad‘s international airport.
Among those killed was Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force and mastermind of multiple terrorist attacks on U.S. interests, including the 2012 assault on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
The strike came amid escalating tensions as Iran’s government lashes out over crippling economic sanctions and civil unrest.
Yet, the decisive military action and the addition of new troops runs counter to Trump’s repeated push to extract the United States from Mideast conflicts.
Prior to this week’s troop deployments, the administration had sent 14,000 additional troops to the Mideast since May, when it first publicly claimed Iran was planning attacks on U.S. interests.
The United States urged its citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” as fears mounted that the strike and any retaliation by Iran could ignite a conflict that engulfs the region.
Pentagon officials said Thursday they were prepared for the likelihood of further retaliatory action from Iran, but the form it will take remains to be seen.
The rogue Islamic regime has attempted recently to obstruct global oil supplies by attacking a Saudi Arabian oil field and a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz—through which 20 percent of the world’s oil must pass.
Trump previously had considered a military strike on Iran for shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone in the region, but he called it off at the last minute for unknown reasons.
However, Trump staunchly defended Thursday’s decision, saying Soleimani should have been dispatched with “many years ago.”
The move was likewise heralded by GOP supporters in Congress and elsewhere, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who said Soleimani was the “right fist of the Ayatollah.”
Graham called it a “[m]ajor blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands.”
Although Graham initially said it was in direct response to the Iranian military aggression, he later backtracked, saying on Fox News that it was a pre-emptive strike against the threat of attacks.
“This is not an act of revenge for what he’d done in the past,” he said. “This was a preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organizer of attacks yet to come.”
Many on the Left already were plotting their own plan of attack, seeking to use the airstrike as yet another political bludgeon against Trump.
The White House did not inform lawmakers before the strike but was expected to give classified briefings to members of Congress and staff in the afternoon.
However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the strike as “wholly lawful,” saying that Soleimani posed serious and credible threat against the U.S. and its interests in the region.
“There was an imminent attack,” Pompeo told Fox News. “The orchestrator, the primary motivator for the attack, was Qassem Soleimani.”
Pompeo called world leaders Friday to explain and defend Trump’s decision to order the airstrike that has sparked fears of an explosion of anti-American protests as well as more violence in the already unstable Middle East.
The State Department said Pompeo had spoken Friday with top officials in Afghanistan, Britain, China, France, Germany and Pakistan.
In his calls with the British and German foreign ministers as well as China’s state councilor, Pompeo stressed that Trump acted to counter an imminent threat to U.S. lives in the region but also that the U.S. is committed to “de-escalation” of tensions, according to the department’s summaries of the conversations.
De-escalation was not mentioned in the department’s summary of his call with the French foreign minister, nor in his calls with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani or the Pakistani military chief of staff.
In those calls Pompeo “underscored the Iranian regime’s destabilizing actions through the region and the Trump Administration’s resolve in protecting American interests, personnel, facilities and partners,” the department said.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press