Pompeo Puts the Soleimani Killing a Little Differently

As officials debate the intelligence report behind the Iranian general's assassination
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2020 5:00 PM CST
Did Pompeo Just Back Off 'Imminent Attack' Claim?
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., listens as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a vote on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Media reports are casting doubt on the Trump administration's claim that it killed Qassem Soleimani in order to stop an "imminent attack." Some unnamed officials and Democratic lawmakers are quoted as saying the Iranian general didn't appear to pose more of a threat than usual. "I don't think there was really anything in that submission that ought to give people confidence that it was either days or weeks or months," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday after seeing a classified justification for the killing, ABC News reports. "It just was really not, I think, fleshed out at all." Among other quotes:

  • 'A normal Monday': Some officials "voiced private skepticism" about the need to assassinate Soleimani, the New York Times reports. Among them, a US official said the new intel suggested "a normal Monday in the Middle East," and Suleimani's movements were "business as usual."
  • 'Strong evidence': Among supporters is Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Friday that Soleimani-inspired attacks were only "days, weeks" away. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien mounted a vigorous defence of "strong evidence and strong intelligence" behind the strike, per VOA News.
  • Hmmm: But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to back off his earlier claim of an "imminent" threat, saying Tuesday the US had found "continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist (Soleimani) to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead potentially to the deaths of many more Americans."
  • Bad history: He added that "if you're looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that lead up to the strike"—a reference to several recent attacks in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, including one that killed a US civilian contractor at an Iraqi base in late December.
  • Not enough: There, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) isn't satisfied: "We must demand clear intelligence and put the administration’s feet to the fire because historical context is not the basis for targeting Soleimani," he said Tuesday, per USA Today.
  • The House: Schiff, meanwhile, wants House involvement: "I think there should be open hearings on this subject," he tells the Washington Post. "The president has put us on a path where we may be at war with Iran. That requires the Congress to fully engage."
(More Qasem Soleimani stories.)

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