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Iran still plotting to kill US officials in revenge for Soleimani, US intel chief says

Qassem Soleimani, Fmr. IRGC Quds Forces Commander, attending National AGIR Commanders Conference. (Mahmoud Hosseini/Tasnim News Agency)
May 11, 2022

The top U.S. intelligence official believes Iran is still seeking to kill U.S. officials in revenge for the 2020 U.S. strike that killed Quds Force commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq.

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that Iran remains focused on getting revenge for the strike on Soleimani, which was ordered by then-President Donald Trump.

Iran has focused many of its calls for revenge on Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was a proponent of the strike against Soleimani. In January, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s website published a computer-animated video depicting a drone assassinating Trump. On the two-year anniversary of Soleimani’s death, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for Trump and Pompeo to be tried and convicted under Islamic law for killing the Iranian general. Pompeo has said Soleimani was “actively engaged” in planning attacks on Americans and he “wouldn’t change a thing” about his support for the strike despite the threats he now faces.

During the Tuesday hearing, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) noted remarks by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an April Senate hearing, that Iran’s attempts to assassinate former Pompeo were “real and ongoing.” Rounds also noted recent reports in Israeli media that Israel’s Mossad intelligence service had apprehended an alleged Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) member who admitted to planning the assassinations of a U.S. general in Germany, an Israeli diplomat in Turkey and a French journalist.

“Why is Iran apparently so emboldened right now and how can the intelligence community and national security communities at large change this dangerous trend and deter Iran from these malicious actions?” Rounds asked.

Haines said she could provide more Rounds a more detailed response in a classified “closed” session, but said, “a fair amount of their motivation in this scenario we assess to be in relation to Soleimani as part of their sort of efforts for revenge, and is a particularly challenging area, I think, to deter them from action in this space.”

Haines’ remarks echoed the assessments from her Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Annual Threat Assessment report, published in March. The annual report identifies a number of threats to the U.S., including from Russia, China, Iran and other countries and hostile actors. Haines brought the report as her prepared statement for the Senate hearing. In its section about Iran, the report said, “We assess that Iran will threaten U.S. persons directly and via proxy attacks, particularly in the Middle East.”

“Iran also remains committed to developing networks inside the United States—an objective it has pursued for more than a decade,” the assessment continued. “Iranian-supported proxies will launch attacks against U.S. forces and persons in Iraq and Syria, and perhaps on other countries and regions. Iran has threatened to retaliate against former and current U.S. officials for the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, and has previously attempted to conduct lethal operations in the United States.”

President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly offered, on multiple occasions, to remove sanctions against Iran if it agrees to stop seeking revenge for Soleimani, but Iranian Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said Iran would not accept the offer and called the idea “wishful thinking.”