On Friday, President Donald Trump called Iran’s Qasem Soleimani the world’s “number-one terrorist”, who had a hand in plots across the world from New Delhi to London, and said he ordered his killing to “stop a war” and not start one even as thousands of additional US troops were sent to the region.
On Thursday, Soleimani was killed in a US drone-strike outside the Baghdad airport, along with the leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia.
Trump said Soleimani was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel”. But like all other American officials who said so before him, he provided no evidence. One senior official cited Soleimani’s presence in Baghdad as proof enough. “He’s not there on vacation,” he told reporters.
“We took action last night to stop a war,” the president went on to say as prospects of a military conflict heightened with Iran vowing revenge. “We did not take action to start a war,” he added. Just a short while before, the Pentagon had announced sending 3,500 additional troops to the region.
Trump’s reference to New Delhi as targeted by Soleimani caught Indians by surprise. But not because it came as news to them, but because they have worked hard to insulate India’s historically close ties with Iran, and their oil trade, from Tehran’s conflicts with other nations such as the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. India does not want to get dragged into this one as well, as was clear from the statement issued earlier in the day by the ministry of external affairs on Soleimani.
“Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London,” Trump said, as seen by some experts, to address audiences outside the United States and claim and convey global salience of the strike ordered by him.