Trump was misled to believe U.S. could get away with Soleimani assassination: Zarif

February 15, 2020 - 12:36

TEHRAN — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says U.S. President Donald Trump was misled to believe his country would get away with the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

Trump believed that the assassination would augment U.S. security but it worked the other way around, Zarif said in an interview with NBC News’ Richard Engel in Munich on Friday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

“It was the beginning of the end of the U.S. presence in the region, and we were very close to a war, because the United States initiated an act of aggression against Iran in a very, excuse the language, cowardly way,” Zarif said.

“They couldn’t confront Soleimani in the battlefield so they hit him during the dark of night through a drone attack on a car carrying him on a peace mission, which is beneath any dignified way of dealing with this, and it came very close to war,” he added.

Zarif explains that Iran’s retaliatory attack was intended to show to the United States that they cannot bully Iran and that actions against Iran will have repercussions.On January 3, Trump ordered strikes that martyred General Soleimani, chief of the IRGC Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

In the early hours of January 8, the IRGC attacked the U.S. airbase of Ain al-Assad in Anbar province in western Iraq as part of its promised “tough revenge” for the U.S. terror attack.

“Iran responded in a proportionate way against the base from which the operations against Soleimani were carried out,” said Zarif.

He explained that Iran’s retaliatory attack was intended to show to the United States that they cannot bully Iran and that actions against Iran will have repercussions.

But the intention, he continued, was not to kill anybody.

“The intention was to send a message, a very clear message to the United States, that if they kill Iranians we will hit back,” he remarked.

The foreign minister said Iran is entitled to defend itself against armed attack by the United States under article 51 of the UN Charter. “We acted in accordance with the law.”

“We informed the Iraqi prime minister forty-five minutes before the operation. Our military sent a special delegation to inform the Iraqi prime minister before the operation and I think he did notify the Americans.”

Asked whether Iran had specifically declared which base it will hit, Zarif said Iran didn’t mention which base. 

“Actually, I believe the emissaries did not know which base was going to be attacked,” Zarif said. “[We said] there will be a military response within the next minutes or hours.”

“We were prepared for a counter-attack. We had hoped that wisdom would prevail. We believed that President Trump had been misled into believing that an operation against General Soleimani would first of all create happiness in Iran and Iraq, and we saw even Mike Pompeo tweeting to that effect.”

The chief Iranian diplomat went on to say that people proved how wrong U.S. calculations have been.

 U.S. suffering from misinformation about Iran, says Zarif

“We did respond in order to change that calculus,” said Zarif.

“We believe that’s a disastrous calculus. I think the United States is suffering, the administration is suffering, from misperceptions, misinformation about Iran, and I believe that can cause catastrophe. It is important for President Trump to listen to advisors who have better knowledge of our region, rather than novices who know nothing about our region.”

Pressed to name whom he meant, Zarif said, “I’m making a general pronouncement that President Trump is receiving bad advice. It’s for him to decide. I don’t interfere in the internal affairs of the United States.”

On the possibility of further acts of retaliation by Iran, Zarif said “it’s not over” but explained that Iran’s military response has been carried out and has been concluded.

However, he continued, what the United States did was “to hurt the emotions and feelings of millions of people who came to the streets of not only various cities in Iran but cities in Iraq, elsewhere in the region, even as far as India or Latin America.”

He further said the reaction of the people is not over yet, reiterating that the end of the U.S. presence in the region has begun.

“I think the first reaction of the people reflected itself in the decision of the parliament of Iraq to ask the government to kick the U.S. out of Iraq.”

He said Soleimani’s funeral brought millions upon millions of people into the streets.

“Seventy people were killed in a stampede during his funeral. That shows the amount of love and affection that people had for him. I think that’s a signal for the United States how mistaken their policy has been.”

On the U.S. Senate’s vote to curb Trump’s power to wage war against Iran, Zarif said the move is an indication that even a Republican-controlled Senate is tired of adventurism.

“[The Senate] is tired of taking action based on miscalculations, tired of taking action based on basically illusions,” he said, adding, “President Trump has believed that Iran would fall since he left the nuclear deal. Now he is misled to believe that we will fall soon. I think he is making all these mistakes, and I think the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the American people don’t want him to make such disastrous mistakes.”

He said he thinks it is obvious that people believe Trump is making a strategic miscalculation.

Zarif further described the Senate’s move as a symbolic but very important measure that indicates that the American people do not want to see a miscalculated adventurist move that can cause disaster for the entire region and for the entire world.

“I think enough damage has been done. I think bad advice to President Trump has led him to make a lot of bad decisions. I think he can correct them by making the right decision, by accepting that maximum pressure on Iran has failed, by accepting that leaving the JCPOA was a wrong decision based on disinformation that he received from some of his advisors.”

MH/PA

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