Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed a suggestion that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission in Iraq when he was killed by an American drone strike last week.
The claim, he said, is “fundamentally false” and a piece of “Iranian propaganda.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, claimed that Soleimani, who was in charge of the shadowy Quds Force, was in Baghdad on a diplomatic visit.
“Does anybody in here believe that?” Pompeo sarcastically told reporters. “Is there any history that would indicate that it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order, Qassem Soleimani, had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission? We know that wasn’t true. We not only know the history, we know in that moment that was not true. Zarif is a propagandist of the first order.”
“It’s not new, we’ve heard these same lies before. It’s fundamentally false.”
Pompeo addressed a claim that Soleimani allegedly was working on a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia. The secretary of state said he spoke with Saudi officials and said they didn’t share the view.
“I can assure you that they will share my view that he was not there representing some kind of agreement that was going to reduce risk or reduce the risk to the lives of Americans while he was on that trip,” he told reporters.
Zarif on Tuesday told NPR that the United States will face retaliation, echoing numerous statements from other Iranian officials after Soleimani’s death.
“[We] will respond according to our own timing and choice,” he said, adding that the attack “amounts to war.” President Donald Trump and Pompeo have both said they are not attempting to start a war with Iran or are seeking regime change, stressing that his death was ordered because he was plotting attacks against Americans.
“We are bound to protect our citizens and our military officials. It was an act that has to be reciprocated by Iran. We will make the necessary deliberations and it will be an act that we will do, not in a hurry, not in a hasty manner,” he also told Qatar-backed Al Jazeera.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, an Iran-backed militant group, was also killed in the drone strike last week near the Baghdad airport.