Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, telling reporters in Washington that it was the “right decision.”
An airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump killed Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Forces, in Baghdad on Jan. 2.
Reporters and some lawmakers have challenged U.S. leaders who have repeatedly said they learned that Soleimani was planning an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests.
“If you’re looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani. And then you, in addition to that, have what we could clearly see were continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans,” Pompeo said on Tuesday, listing off some of the attacks that Iran-backed militias conducted in recent months.
“It was the right decision. We got it right. The Department of Defense did excellent work and the president had an entirely legal, appropriate basis as well as a decision that fit perfectly within our strategy in how to counter the threat of malign activity from Iran more broadly,” Pompeo added.
Pompeo said that the claims that Soleimani was traveling to Baghdad on a diplomatic mission weren’t credible. “We know that wasn’t true. We not only know the history, we know in that moment that was not true,” he said.
Military leaders also said the evidence was ample that Soleimani was planning attacks on American interests.
“I’ve seen words like, oh, the intel was ‘razor thin.’ Very, very few people saw that intelligence. He and I saw that intelligence. And I will be happy, when the appropriate time comes in front of the proper committees and anybody else, through history and every—I’ll stand by the intelligence I saw, that—that was compelling, it was imminent, and it was very, very clear in scale, scope,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters outside the White House on Tuesday that there was “strong evidence and strong intelligence” of the planned attack.
“He was planning to kill, to attack American facilities, and diplomats, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, were located at those facilities,” he added.
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Author: Zachary Stieber