- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that there were large gaps in the detail of attacks supposedly planned by Iran used to justify killing General Qassem Soleimani.
- Pompeo said in a Fox News interview that he did not know exactly when or where any attack would have taken place.
- But he still insisted: “There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks that were being plotted by [Qassem Soleimani].”
- Despite criticism of an intelligence briefing Pompeo gave lawmakers on the Iran attack, he said he did a “dynamite job.”
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted that large gaps exist in intelligence suggesting Iran would imminently launch attacks on Americans — the threat assessment used to justify killing Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani.
“There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks that were being plotted by [Qassem Soleimani],” Pompeo said during a Fox News interview that aired Thursday.
“We don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”
Soleimani was commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that specializes in unconventional warfare beyond its borders. Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, last week, without explicit approval from Congress.
The attack, which raised tensions between Tehran and the US, culminated in Iran launching a missile barrage on Iraqi bases housing US troops. No US forces were killed or wounded during the attack.
But the unilateral decision to kill an Iranian official, in addition to the increased troop presence in the Middle East, has driven a wedge between the Trump administration and congressional lawmakers.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators excoriated a group of US military and intelligence chiefs, which included Pompeo, who briefed them on President Donald Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani.
The closed-door briefing was described by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah as “probably the worst briefing, at least on a military issue, I’ve seen in nine years I’ve been here.”
“There was no raw evidence presented that this was an imminent threat,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington said.
Despite the criticism, Pompeo said he believed he did a “dynamite job” during the briefing, and that US officials “did our level best to present them with all the facts that we could in that setting.”
“I got lots of different feedback from the briefing,” Pompeo said, smiling.
Military officials in recent days have also backed the veracity of the “exquisite intelligence,” which they claim indicated that Soleimani was ready for an attack.
“I’ll stand by the intelligence I saw,” US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday. “That was compelling, it was imminent, and it was very clear in scale.”
The reasoning behind the Trump administration’s attack has been scrutinized, prompting the House of Representatives to pass a resolution to limit the president’s use of military force against Iran.
Voting mostly along party lines, lawmakers voted by 224 to 194 for the War Powers Resolution, which now heads to the Senate for a vote.
At a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, Trump railed against the measure, and suggested the lawmakers who were briefed would leak the classified information to the media.
“You should get permission from Congress,” Trump said, mockingly. “You should tell us what you’re going to do so we can call up the fake news and we can leak it.”