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Pompeo says Trump had ‘legal, appropriate basis’ for airstrike on Iranian Gen. Soleimani

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosts a holiday reception in honor of Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on December 12, 2019. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha)
January 07, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press conference on Tuesday morning in which he defended President Trump’s decision to order the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“The President had an entirely legal, appropriate basis, as well as a decision that fit perfectly within our strategy of how to counter the threat of malign activity from Iran more broadly,” Pompeo told reporters.

“It was the right decision. We got it right. The Department of Defense did excellent work,” he added.

Pompeo said “multiple pieces of information” were presented to Trump for his consideration of the airstrike. “We evaluated the relevant risks, the opportunity that we thought might present itself at some point.”

Pompeo said in the days leading up to the strike, Soleimani was responsible for a rocket attack that killed a U.S. contractor and injured U.S. troops.

He also said the U.S. saw “continuing efforts on behalf of this terrorist [Soleimani] to build out a network of campaign activities that were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans.”

Pompeo also cited massacres in Syria, and “enormous destruction in Lebanon and Iraq,” as evidence of Soleimani’s “terror campaign in the region.”

Critics of President Trump have claimed that the administration is not providing enough specifics to justify the attack on Soleimani.

In addition to Pompeo, the Pentagon also doubled down on its defense of the attack.

“He was planning attacks on American forces. He was there on the ground with the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, met him on the ground at the airplane, welcomed him so they can further coordinate attacks,” Esper said, according to Washington Examiner.

“This whole narrative that’s being turned around is just – is silly,” he argued.

“How do you expect us not to respond after they’ve been killing our people for 20 years? Suleimani alone has the blood of hundreds of Americans. He’s wounded thousands of Americans and coalition partners,” Esper continued. “He is a terrorist, a leader of a terrorist organization who’s been killing and attacking Americans for 20 some years. And the blood is on his hands.”