Soleimani Strike Authorized Seven Months Ago, Trump Waited For Attack

(Photo by MEHDI GHASEMI/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday, NBC News reported that President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Iranian General, and the world’s leading terrorist, Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increasing aggression resulted in the death of an American.

On January 3rd, in response to an attack on a U.S. embassy in Baghdad that was orchestrated by Soleimani and resulted in one military translator dead and four U.S. military members wounded, Trump made the decision to kill Soleimani.

NBC News claims that “The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.” This claim ignores how President Trump claims that he, and the national security team, believed that Soleimani was planning attacks on four more U.S. embassies.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “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. That’s why I deployed thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites throughout the region.”

Esper continued, “Well, the president didn’t say there was a tangible — he didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence… But what the president said was, he believed. He said [Soleimani] could have been targeting — all those things that I believe as well, that the national security team believes as well… What the president said was, he believed it probably could have been. He didn’t cite intelligence.”

Critics of Trump’s decision to take out Soleimani point out that this lack of citation of intelligence means that Trump’s claims of Soleimani planning attacks on U.S. embassies were baseless, and the killing of Soleimani, therefore, unjustified. However, the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that was orchestrated by Soleimani was likely the first of a series of attacks. According to Reuters, in October Qassem Soleimani “instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters.”

Reuters continued: “Before the attacks, the U.S. intelligence community had reason to believe that Soleimani was involved in “late stage” planning to strike Americans in multiple countries, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, U.S. officials told Reuters Friday on condition of anonymity. One senior U.S. official said Soleimani had supplied advanced weaponry to Kataib Hezbollah.

“White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters on Friday that Soleimani had just come from Damascus [when he was killed], “where he was planning attacks on American soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats.””

Further, it was clear that Soleimani was taking steps that would result in the deaths of Americans, which would have fulfilled the U.S. policy from seven months ago. The attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad was unmistakably intended to kill Americans, but only succeeded in wounding four and killing a U.S. contractor. President Trump reacting to Soleimani’s aggression and efforts to kill Americans by updating his previous policy almost certainly saved the lives of Americans.