Jan 10, 2020

Report: U.S. targeted second Iranian official on same day as Qasem Soleimani strike

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

Pompeo declines to appear for testimony on Soleimani airstrike

Mike Pompeo on Jan. 10. Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Monday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declined to attend a committee hearing tomorrow on the Trump administration's decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Why it matters: The administration's mixed messaging on the justification for the airstrike on Soleimani has created doubt among some lawmakers about the "imminent threat" the administration claimed he posed to U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Go deeperArrowJan 13, 2020

GOP Sen. Mike Lee says Iran briefing did not mention plots against 4 embassies

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the Trump administration did not brief him and other members of Congress that Iran was allegedly plotting attacks on four U.S. embassies, as President Trump claimed in an interview with Fox News on Friday.

Why it matters: The administration has come under fire for declining to provide specifics about the nature of the "imminent" threat that prompted the president to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Go deeperArrowJan 12, 2020

Biden: "I would leave troops in the Middle East"

As tensions remain high between the U.S. and Iran, former Vice President Joe Biden said he would leave troops in the Middle East to continue fighting ISIS, and accused President Trump of lying about Iran's imminent attack against American embassies to keep troops in the region.

"I think it's a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now to deal with ISIS. What's happened is, now that he's gone ahead, the president and started this whole process moving, what's happening?"
 "We -- ISIS is going to reconstitute itself. We're in a position where we have to pull our forces out. Americans have to leave the entire region. And quite frankly, I think [Trump has] flat-out lied about saying that the reason he went after -- the reason he made the strike was because our embassies were about to be bombed."
— Former Vice President Joe Biden
Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020