President Donald Trump has been "pretty darn patient" with Iran, but has made it clear that he would respond when U.S. lives are at risk, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday, while discussing the weekend U.S. military strikes in Iraq and Syria.
"This was a defensive action designed to protect American forces and American citizens in Iraq," Pompeo told Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "It was aimed also at deterring Iran. This was an Iranian-backed, rogue militia acting to deny the Iraqi people their basic sovereignty ... they took a strike at an American facility."
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Washington had carried out military strikes to target Iranian-backed Iraqi militia blamed for a rocket attack that killed an American contractor in Iraq last week. The "precision defensive strikes" were conducted against five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq and Syria.
The Trump administration has made a "fundamental shift" where Iran is concerned, in comparison to former President Barack Obama's position, said Pompeo.
"They had allowed this terror campaign to continue," he said. "Indeed, they had permitted funds to flow into Iran to support, underwrite these very terror campaigns we've seen carried out ... we've put enormous pressure to deny resources to Hezbollah, to try and deny resources to Shia militias like the ones that came after Americans, an Iraqi facility in Iraq yesterday where there were Americans working to counter ISIS."
The U.S. mission is continuing to "try and get the Islamic Republic of Iran to try and behave like a normal nation," he added. "We laid out in May of last year, after the president withdrew from the nuclear deal, we laid out our requirements."
Pompeo also discussed the weekend attacks at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, and at a Texas church, noting that there have been increased instances of anti-Semitism around the world, as well as Christians coming under threat in the Middle East and other parts of the world.
"President Trump has made a true pillar of America's foreign policy religious freedom, the right of each of us to practice our faith in the way that we desire to do so, and we work hard on this," he said.
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