Trump 'Wanted to Strike Senior Iranian Military Officer' Ahead of 2020 US Election, Book Claims
In January 2020, General Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds force, was killed in a drone strike authorised by then-US President Donald Trump.
A few months before the 2020 US presidential election, Donald Trump "wanted to strike" a senior Iranian military officer who was operating outside of the Islamic Republic, former US defence secretary Mark Esper has asserted in a new book, a copy of which was obtained by The Guardian.
"This was a really bad idea with very big consequences", Esper writes in his memoir A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Defense Secretary in Extraordinary Times, which is due to hit the shelves next week.
The ex-Pentagon chief explains in the book he learned about Trump's plan "to kill a senior Iranian military commander" from Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who allegedly got a call on the issue from Robert O'Brien, then-national security advisor.
"Milley and I were aware of this person and the trouble he had been stirring in the region for some time. But why now? What was new? Was there an imminent threat? What about gathering the national security team to discuss this? Milley said he was 'stunned' by the call, and he sensed that 'O'Brien put the president up to this,' trying to create news that would help Trump's re-election," Esper claims.
He then writes that he told Milley he would do nothing without a written order from Trump.
"There was no way I was going to unilaterally take such an action, particularly one fraught with a range of legal, diplomatic, political and military implications, not to mention that it could plunge us into war with Iran," the former Pentagon boss notes.
As for "this person" that Esper was referring to, the remark was most likely related to top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike on his car at the Baghdad International Airport on 3 January 2020, an attack that was authorised by then-US President Trump.
The killing led to a major escalation of tensions between Tehran and Washington, with Iran officially responding by launching airstrikes against two Iraqi military bases housing US troops.
The strikes caused no deaths or serious injuries, but the Pentagon has since reported that at least 109 US servicemen have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
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