US President Donald Trump spoke about the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in a speech to the American people given on Friday evening, calling Soleimani the “number one terrorist anywhere in the world.”
“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said. “We did not take action to start a war."
Saying that Soleimani had spent the last 20 years attempting to destabilize the Middle East, the president said that “what the US did yesterday should have been done a long time ago. A lot of lives would have been saved.”
Trump spoke of Soleimani’s involvement in the torturing and killing of “more than a thousand innocent civilians…by their own government” during massive protests against the Iranian regime.
"Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous: To terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American, we will find you; we will eliminate you," the president continued. We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans, and our allies."
The president went on to say that Soleimani made the death of innocent people "his sick passion," and added that he was contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London. "Today we remember and honor the victims of Soleimani’s many atrocities, and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over," Trump said.
He thanked the US military and intelligence, saying they are "the best … by far, anywhere in the world."
He said he has deep respect for the Iranian people and called them “a remarkable people.”
Trump also said that the US does not seek a regime change in Iran.
"Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him," Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
“If Americans anywhere are threatened,” he warned. “I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary.”
White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on Friday that "Iran has two choices here."
"One is further escalation. That path will lead to nowhere for the Iranian people or for the regime," he said.
"The United States will not be intimidated by threats from our adversaries," O'Brien added in a conference call with reporters. "We've made it very clear that should Iran retaliate or escalate [...] that would be a very poor decision in my view for the Iranian regime."
"The alternate path is to sit down with the United States, for Iran to give up it's nuclear program; for Iran to stop its proxy wars in the middle East [...] and to behave like a normal nation. In that case, as the president said, Iran has a fabulous future," he said.Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.