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Esper says he ‘didn’t see’ Trump’s evidence of Iran attack plot on 4 US embassies

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley speak to the media after briefing President Donald Trump about recent US air strikes in Syria and Iraq at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 28, 2019. [RICHARD GRAULICH/palmbeachpost.com/TNS)
January 13, 2020

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper appeared to contradict claims by President Donald Trump on Friday, who alleged that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks on four U.S. embassies.

When asked what specific evidence he saw to indicate imminent attacks on four embassies, Esper said, “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,″ the Associated Press reported.

Fox News’ Laura Ingram had asked Trump during an interview on Friday about the evidence indicating Soleimani was planning an attack.

“We will tell you that probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump said. When pressed further, he added, “I can reveal that I believe it would’ve been four embassies.”

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Esper was asked on Sunday whether he thought Trump was “embellishing” the threat from Iran, to which he replied, “I don’t believe so.”

On Thursday, Trump had said evidence of threats from Iran pointed to a potential attack on a U.S. embassy.

“We took him out. We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy,” Trump said Thursday.

Also on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated there was a “imminent” threat from Iran and Soleimani.

“We had specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats from him included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period. Full stop,” Pompeo told reporters at the White House.

“I don’t know exactly which minute. We don’t know exactly which day it would 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,” Pompeo added.

A new report this week revealed that Trump had been approved the possibility of an attack on Soleimani if he was involved in an attack that resulted in the death of an American.

Such an attack came on Dec. 27 when Iranian-backed Iraqi militias fired some 30 rockets at the K1 military base, an Iraqi compound housing U.S. troops. The attack left one U.S. defense contractor dead, and four other U.S. service members injured, according to a Pentagon statement.

In retaliation, The Pentagon launched precision strikes on five of the militia’s facilities – three in Iraq and two in Syria.

Iraqi militias responded by launching attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, to which the U.S. countered by deploying thousands of emergency response Marines, U.S. Army paratroopers, and more.

On Jan. 2, a U.S. drone dropped the missile that killed Soleimani, an act that Trump said “stopped a war.”