Defense Secretary Esper: 'We Are Safer Today Than We Were Just a Few Weeks Ago'

By Susan Jones | January 13, 2020 | 5:50am EST
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday defended President Trump's targeted strike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

"We are safer today than we were just a few weeks ago. Why? Because we took out the world's foremost terrorist leader, Qassem Soleimani, who had the blood of hundreds of American dead service members on his hands," Esper told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"Secondly, we restored deterrence with Iran without any United States casualties. And, third, we reassured our partners -- partners and allies in the region that we will stand up and defend our interests."

Host Margaret Brennan asked Esper, what about the missiles Iran fired (harmlessly) at U.S. targets in Iraq following the killing of Soleimani?

"We are confident we restored deterrence," Esper repeated. "We do not expect any further attacks.

"But if you look at what's happening on the ground today, you have just yesterday in Tehran and other cities Iranians chanting, 'Death to the Ayatollah. We don't -- we don't think America is our enemy.'

"You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government, a different -- a different regime."

Esper said the United States stands with the Iranian people.

"They want the same things that most people around the world want. They want prosperity. They want the ability to -- to live their lives, to raise their children. And we do support those same aspirations for people wherever they are.

"I just think you see a very corrupt regime, that the Iranian people are finally standing up and trying to hold them accountable."

At the same time, Esper said the Trump administration's offer to negotiate with the Iranian regime still stands:

"Well, it is still the legitimate government, if you will, of Iran. And what we've said, I have said publicly, the president certainly has said, is, we will meet with them. We're willing to sit down and discuss, without precondition, a new way forward, a series of steps by which Iran becomes a more normal country.

"That offer still stands...The president has drawn no preconditions, other than to say we're willing to meet with the Iranian government."


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