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President Trump claimed Friday that the U.S. airstrike that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was not intended to start a war.

Flashback: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said earlier on Friday that he considers the airstrike an "act of aggression against Iraq" that would "light the fuse of war."

Trump's full statement on Friday:

"As president, my highest and most solemn duty is the defense of our nation and its citizens. Last night at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qasem Soleimani.
Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him. Under my leadership America's policies aren't ambiguous to terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American. We will find you, we will eliminate you, we will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans, and our allies.
For years, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Core and its ruthless Quds force under Soleimani's leadership has targeted, injured and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen. The recent U.S. targets in Iraq, including rocket strikes that killed an American and injured 4 American servicemen very badly, as well as a violent assault on our embassy in Baghdad, carried out at the direction of Soleimani. Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London.
Today we remember and honor the victims of Soleimani's many atrocities and take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over. Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years. What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved. Just recently Soleimani led the brutal repression of protestors in Iran. More than 1,000 innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their own government.
We took action last night to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war. I have deep respect for the Iranian people, they are a remarkable people with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential. We do not seek regime change, however the Iranian regime's aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors must end and it must end now.
The future belongs to people of Iran, those who seek peaceful co-existance and cooperation. Not the terrorists and warlords who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad. The United States has the best military by far, anywhere in the world. We have the best intelligence in the world. If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all these targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary, and that in particular refers to Iran.
Under my leadership we have destroyed the ISIS territorial caliphate and recently American special operations forces killed the terrorist leader known as Al-Baghdadi. The world is a safer place without these monsters. America will always pursue the interest of good people, great people, great souls, while seeking peace, harmony, and friendship with all of the nations of the world. Thank you, God bless you, God bless our great military, and God bless the United States of America."

Go deeper: U.S. kills top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.