Kelly Craft
Kelly Craft Reuters

The United States told the United Nations on Wednesday that the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last week was self-defense and made clear it could take additional action “as necessary” in the Middle East to protect US personnel and interests.

In a letter to the UN Security Council seen by Reuters, US Ambassador Kelly Craft said the United States also stands “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran, with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime.”

The killing of Soleimani in Baghdad was justified under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, wrote Craft in the letter.

She added that “the United States is prepared to take additional actions in the region as necessary to continue to protect US personnel and interests.”

Under Article 51, countries are required to “immediately report” to the 15-member Security Council any measures taken in exercising the right of self-defense. The United States used Article 51 to justify taking action in Syria against Islamic State militants in 2014.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about the Iranian retaliation for Soleimani’s killing, in which it launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq.

Milley indicated the attack had been intended to kill US personnel as well as cause major damage at al-Asad airbase.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper also spoke about the Iranian attack, saying the Islamic Republic launched 16 short range ballistic missiles from at least three locations.

Iran's attack on the air bases in Iraq did not damage anything major as the missiles hit targets including tents, a parking lot and a helicopter which was damaged, he told reporters.

The US military remains “poised and ready”, stressed Esper.

Also on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump delivered an address to the nation following the Iranian missile attacks.

“All of our soldiers are safe,” he said, noting that there were no American casualties in the attacks.

“Iran appears to be standing down," he added.

"Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred, and war. The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward," the President said.