Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in an airstrike directed by the White House Thursday was because of attacks he was planning against Americans, not because of those he carried out in the past, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Friday.
According to Pentagon officials, Soleimani was killed shortly after he arrived at the airport in Baghdad.
The Pentagon said it was taken as a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel” after it learned Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
Graham, a top ally of President Donald Trump, told Fox News, “The intelligence was that Soleimani was orchestrating chaos in Iraq at our expense and throughout the region.”
“The president was informed of these potential attacks and he acted,” he added. “This was a defensive strike to neutralize future attacks that were planned and executed by Soleimani and the popular mobilization front: the Shiite militias in Iraq.”
The South Carolina Republican added that had President Trump not acted, “holy hell” in the Middle East that would have broken out if Soleimani were allowed to carry out his plans.
“He’s not dead today because of what he did in the past, he’s dead today because he miscalculated what President Trump would do regarding future attacks,” said Graham, adding that Trump should make it plain to the Iranians any future attacks on American forces would put its oil industry at risk.
“Their oil refineries are the last thing they have in terms of an economy,” Graham said.
“To the Iranian government: If you want to stay in the oil business leave America and our allies alone and stop being the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” he added.
Graham predicted that the Iranians would retaliate, but that if they did, targets inside their country should be struck.
“They are going to come after us with a vengeance if we do not reset the table quickly,” Graham said. “And, if I were the president, I would put on the table targets in Iran—not Iraq and Syria. Economic targets that crush the economy.”