Secretary Of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley claimed on Thursday, Jan. 2, that “the game has changed” after the United States carried out a successful drone strike to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
“Their provocative behavior’s been out there for months, right?” Esper told a group of reporters during a press gaggle before an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles at a convoy of terrorists that was leaving Baghdad International Airport, the Daily Wire reported.
“They’ve been—they’ve been shooting rockets, indirect fire, any type of things, attacking our bases for months now. In the last two alone, we’ve nearly a dozen attacks against U.S. forces, against our coalition partners,” he said.
“So do I think they may do something? Yes. And they will likely regret it,” he continued. “And we are prepared to exercise self-defense, and we are prepared to deter further bad behavior from these groups, all of which are sponsored and directed and resourced by Iran.”
Milley listed the number of attacks that Iranians processed against the U.S. army forces—there were six attacks up until Dec. 27.
“We know that the number of rounds have been increasing, from ‘x’ all the way up to 31. We know that the intent of this last attack was in fact to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, whoever was there,” he continued. “It was about a hundred soldiers at that particular compound.”
Milley added, “Thirty-one rockets aren’t designed as a warning shot. That’s designed to inflict damage and kill. So this has been a sustained campaign by K.H., which is under the influence, command, control, support, training, advice, et cetera, of Iranian special operations forces. So there’s no doubt in our mind as to what happened here.”
“So the—the game has changed and we’re prepared to do what is necessary to defend our personnel, and our interests and our partners in the region,” Esper said.
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton praised President Trump, saying “This was a decisive blow against Iran’s malign Quds Force activities worldwide.”
“Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran”: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton calls killing of leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force in U.S. airstrike “a decisive blow.” https://t.co/25nNz783VM pic.twitter.com/FPQxhExdSU
— ABC News (@ABC) January 3, 2020
Former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley similarly praised Trump, calling Soleimani “an arch-terrorist with American blood on his hands.”
“Qassem Soleimani was an arch terrorist with American blood on his hands,”
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 3, 2020