Trump Says Obama Designated Qassem Soleimani a Terrorist but 'Did Nothing About It'

President Donald Trump has attacked his predecessor Barack Obama for being too soft on Iran, while celebrating his own decision to assassinate top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani despite potential geopolitical blowback.

Speaking with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Monday, Trump cast Obama as indecisive and weak in his dealings with Iran, criticizing the former president for not ordering Soleimani's death himself.

"Obama was letting them get away with murder, in the true sense murder," Trump told Limbaugh.

Soleimani—killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad last week—commanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force and oversaw Iran's foreign military and covert operations. The U.S. designated the Quds Force a terrorist organization in 2007, with the Trump administration adding the IRGC to the list in 2019.

In 2011, the Obama administration sanctioned Soleimani for an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, D.C.

Trump told Limbaugh Monday that Soleimani was Iran's "real military leader. He's a terrorist. He was designated a terrorist by President Obama and then Obama did nothing about it."

Trump has been broadly critical of his predecessor, and while campaigning vowed to tear up the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—known as the Iran nuclear deal—that Obama secured after years of negotiation.

The agreement imposed restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Trump withdrew from the accord in May 2018 claiming the "bad deal" was not strict enough, and has since reimposed punitive sanctions designed to choke the regime in Tehran. Subsequent tensions have brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of armed conflict.

Trump and his allies sought to force Iran to renegotiate the agreement to include restrictions on Tehran's regional influence and ballistic missile program.

But Iran refused, instead attempting to weather the economic storm while using proxy forces and asymmetric warfare to attack U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East.

The JCPOA released Iranian assets abroad frozen by international sanctions. Trump has misleadingly framed this as a cash gift from Obama to Iran, which was then plowed directly into supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Trump repeated the assertion multiple times while speaking with Limbaugh on Monday. "Why did he give him $150 billion, much of it going back into terror?" the president asked.

This money already belonged to Iran and was being held in foreign—largely non-American—banks, as reported by The president's $150 billion figure is at the high end of the estimated total released, with the Treasury Department suggesting in 2015 that the true figure is closer to $50 billion in "usable liquid assets."

Trump also complained that the Obama administration handed an additional $1.8 billion to the regime in Tehran. Again, this is misleading, The Associated Press explained.

That money—actually $1.7 billion—was an American debt, plus interest, owed to Iran for military equipment bought when the country was still ruled by its monarchy, which was overthrown in 1979. The subsequent collapse in relations meant the equipment was never delivered.

Donald Trump, Qassem Soleimani, Barack Obama, Iran
This file photo shows President Donald Trump speaking with reporters at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 24, 2019. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images/Getty