Jan 4, 2020

Reality check: Mike Pence links Soleimani to 9/11

Mike Pence. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

While defending President Trump's decision to authorize the drone strike that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, Vice President Pence claimed on Twitter that Soleimani helped "10 of the 12" Sept. 11 attackers travel to Afghanistan.

Reality check: "That does not match established historical accounts of General [Soleimani] or public United States intelligence about the hijackers," The New York Times writes.

  • Soleimani is not mentioned whatsoever in the "9/11 Commission Report." The report concludes there is no evidence that Iran nor Hezbollah were aware of the 9/11 attacks.
  • Soleimani focused on undermining Saudi Arabia, and is said to have helped facilitate the capture of Al Qaeda militants on behalf of the U.S., the Times writes.
  • Pence also mentioned 12 attackers, but there were 19. Katie Waldman, a spokesperson for Pence, told the Times the vice president was referring to a sub-group of attackers known to have traveled through Afghanistan.
  • Waldman did note that the U.S. Treasury Department identified and sanctioned three senior Al Qaeda operatives living in Iran in 2016, and knowingly allowed them and several 9/11 attackers to move through Iran to Afghanistan.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from Vice President Mike Pence's spokesperson Katie Waldman.

Go deeper: The next move on Iran

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Iran's proxies in the Middle East

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Behrouz Mehri/Getty Staff, Anadolu Agency/Getty Contributor, Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Contributor

Iran has built up a vast network of proxies through which it wields influence across the Middle East, and which could take action to stoke tensions between the U.S. and Iran over the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Why it matters: The political parties and militias that are influenced by and act on behalf of Iran likely pose a more direct threat to U.S. targets than Iran itself, the Washington Post writes.

Go deeperArrowJan 18, 2020 - World

How Trump decided to kill Iran's Soleimani

President Trump. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Trump was interrupted during campaign planning at his Mar-a-Lago resort last Sunday and pulled into another meeting which resulted in the final call to authorize a drone strike that killed Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani, the New York Times reports.

Why now: Officials said the decision to strike Soleimani emerged in response to the death of an American contractor the Friday before Christmas in Iraq by Iranian-sponsored militia groups. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Soleimani was "actively" planning an attack on Americans, the Washington Post reports.

Go deeperArrowJan 4, 2020

Trump responds to missile strikes: "Iran appears to be standing down"

President Trump said in a White House address Wednesday that Americans should be "extremely grateful and happy" because Iranian strikes hours earlier resulted in no casualties, and Iran now "appears to be standing down."

Why it matters: Iran's strikes came in retaliation for the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, a stunning event that led to immediate fears of war. Trump defended that decision and announced new sanctions on Iran, but did not signal new military escalation.

Go deeperArrowJan 8, 2020