11, January 2020
Several US lawmakers and officials have dismissed President Donald Trump’s new claim the US assassinated Iranian Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani because he was planning an attack on four American embassies in the region, including the one in Iraq.
In an interview on Friday with Fox News, Trump said Iran probably had targeted the US embassy in Baghdad and was aiming to attack four US embassies when it killed Soleimani.
“We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump claimed. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”
But two unnamed senior officials, including one in the Defense Department, told The Washington Post that they were aware only of vague intelligence about a plot against the embassy in Baghdad.
Neither official mentioned any threats against other embassies in the region.
A source told the Post that the US embassy in Baghdad was never given a warning “commensurate” with the kind of threat described by Trump, which would have been standard procedure.
US Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said nothing about planned attacks on four embassies was revealed to Congress and essentially accused Trump of making up the planned attacks.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called the killing “provocative and disproportionate,” and other members of Congress said they were unconvinced after a closed-door intelligence briefing provided by administration officials.
“President Trump recklessly assassinated Qasem Soleimani,” said US Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state.
“He had no evidence of an imminent threat or attack,” she said.
“Let’s be clear — if there was evidence of imminent attacks on four embassies, the Administration would have said so at our Wednesday briefing,” he tweeted. “They didn’t. So either Fox News gets higher level briefings than Congress … or … wait for it… there was no such imminent threat.”
The Trump administration had earlier claimed it carried out the assassination to avert an “imminent attack,” which has also been met with suspicion and skepticism in the US.
The US military carried out an airstrike on the direction of Trump at Baghdad’s international airport last Friday, assassinating Soleimani and the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as eight other companions.
Early on Wednesday, Iran responded to the assassination, striking the American airbase of Ain al-Assad in Anbar province in western Iraq and another in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
A USA Today/Ipsos poll released Thursday found that Americans, by 55%-24%, said they believe the killing of General Soleimani has made the United States less safe, rejecting a fundamental argument the Trump administration has made that the assassination made the US safer.