Jan 3, 2020

Pompeo says Soleimani strike disrupted "imminent" attack

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN's "New Day" on Friday that the U.S. strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was meant to disrupt an "imminent" attack against Americans in the Middle East.

"It was the time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian regime — as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation. The risk of doing nothing was enormous. The intelligence community made that assessment, and President Trump acted decisively last night."

The state of play: Pompeo largely refused to elaborate on the details of the alleged Iranian plot, including the timing, only stating that it was centered "in the region" and not against the U.S. homeland.

  • He said that Soleimani was plotting a "big action" that could have put hundreds of American lives at risk.

Why it matters, via Axios' Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan: Soleimani had already cost hundreds of American lives over the years and was among the Middle East's most feared powers.

  • A source in close contact with Trump administration senior national security officials tells Axios that one scenario they are especially concerned about — and have been prepared for — is Iran launching cyberattacks.
  • That's the most likely way that Iran could retaliate stateside.

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Trump says Soleimani "should have been taken out many years ago" in first tweets on strike

President Trump said Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, "should have been taken out many years ago" in his first direct tweets on the strike on Friday.

"General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!"
Go deeperArrowJan 3, 2020

America's war footing

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister's Press Office shows a burning vehicle at Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike early today. Photo via AP

President Trump, after warning three days ago that Iran would pay "a very BIG PRICE," authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran's top general and second most powerful official, Qasem Soleimani.

Why it matters: Soleimani had cost hundreds of American lives and was among the Middle East's most feared powers. But Iran seems certain to respond, potentially further destabilizing the world's most volatile region.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 3, 2020

U.S. kills top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani

Soleimani (center). Photo: Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One of the Iranian regime's most powerful figures has been killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's international airport, the Pentagon has confirmed.

Why it matters: Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was as revered by Iran's proxies and supporters across the region as he was reviled by Iran's foes, who considered him the mastermind of state-sponsored terrorism.

Go deeperArrowJan 3, 2020