Trump Accuses Democrats of Casting Qassem Soleimani As a 'Wonderful Human Being'

President Donald Trump has once again defended the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, accusing both the Democrats and his media critics of taking against the operation purely because of their opposition to the current administration.

Speaking with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday, the president lauded last week's drone strike that killed Soleimani and Iraqi Shiite militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad.

The seismic operation marked a significant escalation in the simmering U.S.-Iran conflict, and prompted Tehran to vow revenge against U.S. forces in the Middle East. Soleimani was widely considered one of the most influential figures within the Tehran regime, close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and credited with masterminding two decades of Iranian military strategy abroad.

U.S. political reaction has been largely partisan, with Republicans praising the ruthlessness and decisiveness of Trump's strike. Trump and his senior officials have claimed that Soleimani was killed to stop imminent attacks against Americans, but have so far refused to provide evidence for the assertion.

Democrats are leading calls for the administration to offer evidence justifying the killing, while urging the president not to drag the U.S. into another Middle East war. They have also criticized Trump for not notifying Congress of the planned attack.

Trump told Limbaugh on Monday, that Soleimani—who led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, which oversaw Iran's foreign military strategy and covert operations—"was a terrorist."

"They don't want to call him a terrorist," Trump continued. "Now the Democrats are trying to make him sound like he was this wonderful human being."

The president did not specify to which Democrats he was referring. Newsweek has contacted the White House to request clarification.

Prominent figures within the party have been generally critical of Soleimani's conduct, while also warning that his assassination could have far-reaching negative consequences.

The leading 2020 presidential candidates were largely on the same page. Former Vice President Joe Biden described Soleimani as someone who "supported terror and sowed chaos," in addition to committing "crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region."

The Pentagon says Soleimani oversaw the arming of Iraqi insurgents during the U.S. occupation of the country, with more than 600 Americans deaths linked to Iranian-supplied weapons.

But Biden said that though "the administration's statement says that its goal is to deter future attacks by Iran, but this action almost certainly will have the opposite effect...President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops...our people and our interests."

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren's initial statement branded Soleimani a "murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans."

But she also said his assassination was a "reckless move" that "escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war."

Warren's subsequent comments accused Trump of destroying "an Iran nuclear deal that was working" and repeatedly escalating tensions with Tehran. "Now he's assassinated a senior foreign military official," she added. "He's been marching toward war with Iran since his first days in office."

Warren later referred to Soleimani as "a government official, a high-ranking military official" and suggested Trump ordered his killing to distract from the looming impeachment trial in the Senate.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told MSNBC Monday there was "no question" that Soleimani "had American blood on his hands, that he was a bad actor in the region." The Afghanistan veteran added, "If there is anything that we have learned in the last 20 years about the Middle East it's that taking out a bad guy is not necessarily a good idea."

"And what we've seen here is no evidence that there's been proper consultation with Congress and more importantly, and more dangerously, no evidence that they've really thought about the consequences," Buttigieg continued.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was less scathing of Soleimani in his initial reaction to the assassination. His response focused on Trump's foreign policy rather than Soleimani's conduct.

"Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars," Sanders said in a statement on Twitter. "Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one."

Democratic party leaders have also been critical of Soleimani, though likewise have questioned whether his assassination was appropriate or legal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the killing "risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America—and the world—cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return."

House Democrats are also moving to block the president's ability to take further offensive action against Iran, planning to vote this week on a resolution to restrict his military powers.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump for not notifying Congress of the planned strike. He suggested that "the lack of advanced consultation and transparency with Congress can lead to hasty and ill-considered decisions," adding: "When the security of the nation is at stake, decisions must not be made in a vacuum."

Donald Trump, Iran, Democrats, Qassem Soleimani, Iraq
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 3, 2020 in Miami, Florida Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Getty

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