Iraqi Gen. Qassam Soleimani was taken out because the government had intelligence "which we believe was very strong" that showed the commander and those with whom he was plotting were "looking to kill American diplomats and soldiers in significant numbers" in upcoming days, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Tuesday.
"I can tell you that there were plans that were being made and Soleimani was in the midst of that plotting," O'Brien told Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "That's why he was traveling in the region in Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad, to conspire with people to attack American facilities that contained diplomat soldiers, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen. We were, the president was very concerned about that activity. Soleimani and the Iranian regime knew exactly what they were doing. What they did was underestimated the president and his restraint."
In recent months, Iran has downed several drones, attacked Saudi Arabia's ARAMCO, and taken several other actions, and President Donald Trump has been "very restrained," said O'Brien.
"The president tried to open negotiations with the Iranians," he said. "Remember, he offered to speak with them unconditionally. They took that as a sign of weakness...they made a bad mistake in how they read his restraint, which was admirable."
Meanwhile, Soleimani also had been heavily involved from the early days in Iran's nuclear program, said O'Brien, and was not to be traveling outside Iran because of United Nations sanctions. His death will have an "effect" on the nuclear program, as will the Trump administration's policy of peace through strength, he added.
"The president made it very clear that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon and I think we have got a lot of friends and allies in the region and Europe committed to that outcome," said O'Brien.
O'Brien also discussed the decision to deny Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Zarif's entry visa to allow him to enter the United States to attend a meeting of the UN Security Council, saying Secretary of State Pompeo did not believe it to be the "right time" for Zarif to come into the country.
"Whenever he comes to New York, he spreads propaganda," said O'Brien.
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