“We’re ready. We’re making it very clear we’re not going to tolerate violence,” Pence said in an interview Thursday with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.”
President Donald Trump took “decisive action,” according to Pence when he ordered the airstrike that killed Iran’s top military general, Qassam Soleimani, near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Jan. 2.
Soleimani had led the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in operations throughout the region over the past 20 years, backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supporting Shiite militia groups in Iraq, including against U.S. troops during the Iraq War. The U.S. Department of State said Soleimani’s forces are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops because of the kind of explosive devices they helped bring to Iraq. The United States designated Soleimani a terrorist in 2011 under then-President Barack Obama.
Pence argued that Trump’s directive not only “took the world’s most dangerous terrorist off the battlefield,” but also “sent a very clear message that the United States will defend our people, will defend our interests.”
“He was right to act, he had a duty to act,” the vice president said, noting that the Trump administration had “compelling” intelligence that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on U.S. forces and personnel in the region. The administration, however, has provided no evidence of those plans.
“The danger of not acting was greater than the danger posed by acting,” Pence added.
Iran called Soleimani’s killing an “act of war” and retaliated early Wednesday morning by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing American troops and coalition forces.
There were no causalities from the strikes, according to Pence.
“And I’m pleased to report that Iran continues to appear to stand down,” he noted. “But we’ll remain very vigilant.”
In the days after the U.S. airstrike, the Iranian government announced it will no longer abide by any of the operational restraints on its nuclear program under the 2015 deal with the international community, which the Trump administration withdrew the United States from in May 2018. Meanwhile, Iraq’s parliament voted on Sunday to expel American troops from the country.
Dozens of people took to the streets in New York City’s Times Square on Wednesday night to protest the escalating tensions with Iran. Demonstrators held signs that read, “No more war” and “Peace with Iran.” Protests have taken place elsewhere across the country and abroad as people speak out against further military action between the two nations.
When asked whether U.S. troops will be pulled from the region, Pence said, “We have no plans to change our military posture in Iraq or in the region.”
“We want to bring an end to endless wars,” he continued. “We’ll wait and see what the Iraqi government chooses to do.”