Pompeo Offers No Specifics When Pressed On Soleimani’s Imminent Threat

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 6: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in the Capitol for a briefing on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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January 7, 2020 10:54 a.m.

When pressed about the intelligence about an imminent threat to Americans that prompted the fatal strike against Iranian commander Quasem Soleimani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered up a vague response.

“We evaluated the relevant risks and the opportunity that we thought might present itself at some point,” he said Tuesday, naming the massacre in Syria and violence in Lebanon and Iraq as Soleimani’s handiwork.

“We know what happened at the end of last year in December, ultimately leading to the death of an American,” he continued. “So 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 which we could clearly see, have 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’s explanation will likely fall far short of demands, made largely by Democratic lawmakers, for specific proof that a serious imminent threat against American life justified the explosive strike against Soleimani that has stoked anti-American sentiment in an already volatile region.

Pompeo muddled the reasoning for the strike even more later in his remarks, framing it as a retribution for older attacks on Americans rather than a preemptive strike.

“And then you saw more tactically just these last few days the President’s response when the Iranians made a bad decision to kill an American,” he said. “We hope they won’t make another bad decision.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Sunday that she will hold a vote on a war powers resolution to curtail President Donald Trump’s aggression against Iran. Neither she nor Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), both members of the Gang of Eight, was briefed about the strike in advance.

Many European allies to the U.S. have expressed apprehension and urged caution in the wake of the attack, as Iran vows revenge and claims Soleimani as a “martyr.”

Iraq’s parliament voted to expel American troops from the region on Sunday in an apparent attempt to keep the country from becoming a battleground. Contrary to an embarrassing letter written by Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William Seely and circulated by accident, the U.S. does not intend to withdraw troops at this time.

Trump has threatened to attack Iran’s cultural sites if the conflict continues to escalate, a statement which garnered widespread condemnation and a rebuttal by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who assured reporters that “we will follow the laws of armed conflict.” Attacking a cultural site with no military value is considered a war crime.

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