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Trump at a "Keep America Great" rally in Toledo, Ohio on Jan. 9. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. made an unsuccessful attempt to kill a senior Iranian official in Yemen on the same day that top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was killed in an American airstrike, the New York Times and Washington Post report.

Why it matters: This second operation, targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, could indicate that killing Soleimani "was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans," the Post reports.

  • The Pentagon has said the U.S. killed Soleimani because the general was "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region."
  • President Trump told Fox News' Laura Ingraham on Friday that he believed Iran planned to attack four U.S. embassies as part of its imminent threat, but he provided no evidence for that claim.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also described the attacks as "imminent."

But, a classified briefing on Wednesday left Democrats and even some Republicans deeply skeptical, with many claiming that officials did not provide evidence of the "imminent" threat from Iran.

  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on Twitter on Friday that the Trump administration did not provide proof of imminent attacks on four embassies at the Wednesday briefing.

Background: The Pentagon has not confirmed an attempted Jan. 2 strike on Shahlai. The agency told the Post and NYT that Yemen "is long-understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States."

  • Shahlai is a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the Post notes.
  • The White House did not immediately respond to comment on Friday. The State Department declined to comment to the Post.

Go deeper: The Trump administration's mixed messages on the Soleimani strike

Go deeper

4 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.