Jan 4, 2020

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.

The state of play: Trump gave the U.S. military broad range to kill Soleimani the next time there was an opportunity after months of intensifying rocket attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq, Politico reports.

  • Trump spoke with advisers throughout the week leading up to the Iraqi drone strike, receiving input on the decision, per Politico.
  • Pompeo said U.S. officials had “an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process,” and it changed their calculations about the "intelligence flow" the U.S. collected about Soleimani in Iraq, Politico writes.
  • Officials told Trump they felt Soleimani was" taunting" the U.S. by going to Baghdad with "impunity," the Post writes.
  • The U.S. "tracked Soleimani’s movements for several days, keeping Trump apprised, and decided that their best opportunity to kill him would be near the Baghdad airport, the senior administration official said," according to the Post.
  • The White House notified close congressional allies about the attack ahead of time, but, per Politico, left Democrats uninformed.

Protests at the U.S. embassy in Iraq sparked memories of the 2012 Benghazi attack with Trump declaring, "Our people will be protected. This will not be Benghazi," Politico notes.

  • Officials who spoke with Trump allegedly said they felt a decisive response to the killing of the American contractor and attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq would make him look stronger than President Obama, the Post writes.

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The latest: Iran general who replaced Soleimani vows revenge for death

Photo: Mohammed Sawaf/AFP via Getty Images

Iran's new top commander Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Gen. Qasem Soleimani after he died in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, pledged during a televised address Monday to avenge the general's killing, AP reports.

The latest: Ghaani‘s declaration that God "has promised to get his revenge" and that "certainly actions will be taken" came hours after Iran said it would no longer abide by limits on its uranium enrichment and Iraq's parliament voted to call on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from the country over Friday's airstrike.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 6, 2020

The Trump administration's mixed messages on the Soleimani strike

Pomeo, Esper and Milley conduct a briefing from Mar-a-Lago. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

In the five days since the U.S. stunned the world by killing Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, top officials and the president himself have shared varying pictures of why that decision was made — and what they plan to do next.

Why it matters: Those mixed messages have generated doubt among Americans and allies over the "imminent threat" Soleimani posed, outrage in Tehran over Trump's threat of war crimes, and confusion in Baghdad about a possible U.S. withdrawal.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

House Foreign Affairs Committee calls Pompeo to testify on Trump admin's Iran policy

Mike Pompeo. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has invited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify at a meeting on Jan. 14 regarding escalating tensions in Iran, per a release Tuesday.

Why it matters: The meeting will give the Democrat-led committee a chance to question the decision to strike Iraq and ultimately kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, but it is unclear whether Pompeo will attend.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020