The Trump administration on Sunday pledged to target top Iranian leaders in new strikes if Tehran retaliated against the United States in any way following the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.
The Quds Force leader was targeted by a drone strike after landing at the international airport in Baghdad on direct orders from President Donald Trump.
The president made the decision to target Soleimani after an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack and four U.S. military personnel wounded on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq. The U.S. embassy was besieged as well after the U.S. launched airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militant groups and weapons depots.
“We’re going to respond against the actual decision-makers, the people who are causing this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said following a series of tweets by President Donald Trump a day earlier noting the U.S. had pre-selected 52 targets in Iran already.
Late Sunday, the president was asked about Iranian retaliation, to which he responded. “If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation.”
Iran’s supreme leader vowed to inflict “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death and other Iranian officials.
He also said Sunday that Tehran will now no longer abide by any limits to its nuclear enrichment activities.
The traded threats come amid an Iraqi parliament vote to eject all U.S. forces from the country, though it was conducted without a majority of members present including Kurdish lawmakers who do not want to see American forces leave.
Trump, for his part, dismissed the Iraqi vote, noting that before he would remove U.S. forces Iraq would have to compensate Washington for a massive airbase American taxpayers purchased.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there,” the president said.
“It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it. If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis … We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” he continued.
The president added: “If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”