Asked during a press conference whether the attack allegedly being masterminded by Soleimani had been days or weeks away, Mr Esper, the US defence secretary, said: “I think it’s more fair to say days, for sure.”
He also included a warning while urging Iran to de-escalate the current standoff, saying: “We are not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one.”
Donald Trump followed up the comments by saying Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s proxy militias, was planning a “very big attack” which would have affected America and taken “a lot of lives”.
Meanwhile, Iran accused the UK of being “a partner in crime” with the US over the attack as the Defence Secretary took “urgent measures” to protect the safety of British troops in the region.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have urged Iran to “de-escalate” the growing crisis, but after Boris Johnson said the US was justified in killing Soleimani Tehran communicated its fury with Britain via ambassador Rob Macaire.
At least 60 people died and 200 were injured in a stampede yesterday during the funeral for Soleimani.
Tens of thousands had gathered in a central square in Kerman, the home town of the commander, as they prepared for his burial. Witnesses say mourners were violently pushed back from the cortege as the coffin passed, with crowds trampling on men, women and children.