Trump Administration on Evidence of Iran Threat

January 13, 2020

Trump administration officials initially said Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Qods Force, was killed in a U.S. airstrike because he was planning to attack Americans in the Middle East. On January 2, the Pentagon said Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” but did not specify a timeframe. On January 3, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the threat was “imminent.” 

By January 10, President Trump said four embassies were going be targeted. He told Fox News that one of them probably would have been the embassy in Baghdad. 

The following are statements by U.S. officials on the trigger for the Soleimani strike. 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a tweet on January 3

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in comments to CNN on January 3

Soleimani “was actively plotting in the region to take actions, a big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk… not just in Iraq.”

 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley to reporters on January 3

There was "clear, unambiguous intelligence indicating a significant campaign of violence against the United States in the days, weeks, and months.”

The administration would have been “culpably negligent” if it had not ordered the drone strike.

 

President Donald Trump to reporters on January 3

 “Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him.”

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to CBS on January 5

“We watched him continue to actively build out for what was going to be a significant attack – that’s what we believed – and we made the right decision.”

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to NBC on January 5

“We could see that he was continuing down this path, that there were, in fact, plots that he was working on that were aimed directly at significant harm to American interests throughout the region, not just in Iraq.” 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Fox News on January 5

Soleimani “was in Baghdad, where we struck him, traveling outside of Iran, continuing to plot, to build out attacks that would have threatened American lives.” 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to CNN on January 5

“If you’re an American in the region, days and weeks – this is not something that’s relevant. We have to prepare.”

 

President Donald Trump to Fox News on January 10

“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies, but Baghdad certainly would have been the lead. But I think it would have been four embassies, could have been military bases, could have been a lot of other things, too. But it was imminent. And then all of a sudden he was gone.”

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a press briefing on January 10

“We had specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats included attacks on US embassies. Period. Full stop.”

“Those are consistent thoughts. I don’t know exactly which minute, we don’t know exactly which day it woul have been executed, but it was very clear: Qassem Soleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests, and those attacks were imminent… against American facilities including American embassies, military bases, American facilities throughout the region.”

 

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to CBS on January 12

“Well, what the president said was he believed that it probably and could have been attacks against additional embassies. I shared that view. I know other members of national security team shared that view.”

“I didn’t see one [an imminent threat] with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is I share the president's view that probably- my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country.

“There was going to be an attack within a matter of days that would be broad in scale – in other words, more than one country – and that it would be bigger than previous attacks.”

 

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to Fox News on January 12

Q: “It does seem to be a contradiction. He’s telling Laura Ingraham [about imminent attacks], but in a 75-minute classified briefing, your top national security people never mentioned this to members of Congress. Why not?”

O’BRIEN: “I wasn’t at the briefing, and I don’t know how the Q&A went back and forth. Sometimes it depends on the questions that were asked or how they were phrased.”

“It’s always difficult, even with the exquisite intelligence that we have, to know exactly what the targets are, but it’s certainly consistent with the intelligence to assume that they would have hit embassies in at least four countries.”

 

President Donald Trump in a tweet on January 13