- President Donald Trump didn’t know who the powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was when he was running for president in 2015. On Friday, he ordered Soleimani’s assassination.
- During a September 2015 interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Trump confused the Iranian Quds Forces – an elite military force – with the Kurdish ethnic group.
- When Hewitt asked Trump for his thoughts on Soleimani and other prominent militant group leaders, Trump insisted there was no reason he should be familiar with them.
- “As far as the individual players, of course I don’t know them. I’ve never met them. I haven’t been in a position to meet them,” Trump said.
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President Donald Trump didn’t know who the powerful, longstanding Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was when the real estate magnate was running for president in late 2015.
But just over four years later, Trump ordered the US military to assassinate Soleimani in a drone strike that has significantly escalated tensions between the US and Iran.
Trump said he was familiar, but added that Hewitt should “go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.”
“He runs the Quds Forces,” Hewitt responded, naming the elite Iranian military fighting force Soleimani had long commanded.
“Yes, okay, right,” Trump said, adding, “The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated.”
Hewitt then interrupted to say he wasn’t talking about the Kurds – the Middle Eastern ethnic group – and explained the Quds were part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Trump insisted he had misheard Hewitt and then launched into an attack on the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
But the radio host looped back around to his original question: Would Soleimani change his behavior as a result of the deal?
“Is he the gentleman that was going back and forth with Russia and meeting with Putin?” Trump asked. “I read something, and that seems to be also where he’s at.”
Hewitt replied, “That’s the guy.”
“Not good,” Trump said.
Later in the interview, Hewitt listed the names of other prominent Islamist militant leaders – Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Nusra Front’s Abu Muhammad al-Julani, and the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – and asked Trump if he knew who they were.
He did not.
(Trump ordered the assassination of al-Baghdadi in October.)
The Republican candidate argued that leaders like Soleimani will be dead, and therefore irrelevant, by the time he becomes president. And he suggested it wasn’t important for him to know the difference between Islamic militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas before he becomes president.
“As far as the individual players, of course I don’t know them. I’ve never met them,” Trump said. “If they’re still there, which is unlikely in many cases, but if they’re still there, I will know them better than I know you.”
Trump then accused Hewitt, who repeatedly praised Trump throughout the interview, of asking “ridiculous” “gotcha questions.”
“That is a gotcha question, though. I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin,” Trump said.