Pompeo again declines to present evidence of 'imminent' threat that led to strike against Iranian general

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responds to the US airstrike leading to the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, saying the priority of President Trump and his administration is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Posted: Jan 8, 2020 6:40 AM
Updated: Jan 8, 2020 6:40 AM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday defended the basis for killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani because of the threat of an imminent strike but declined to present any evidence, saying President Donald Trump's decision was "entirely legal."

"There's been much made about this question of intelligence and imminence," Pompeo said at the State Department. "Any time a president makes a decision of this magnitude, there are multitude pieces of information that come before him."

"It's the right decision, we got it right, the Department of Defense did excellent work," he said, adding that it was an "entirely legal decision."

Pompeo made his remarks as questions continue to mount about the justification for the strike as well as the administration's overall level of strategic planning for the fallout from killing the second most powerful man in Iran. Just hours after Pompeo spoke, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases that host US troops in what appears to be an act of retaliation.

Pompeo made his remarks a day after the Pentagon issued contradictory and confusing signals about whether US troops would be pulled from Iraq and Trump doubled down on his threats to strike Iranian cultural sites -- an international war crime that Pompeo had earlier tried to deny the President had said at all.

His appearance Tuesday failed to clear up lingering uncertainty or quell calls for more information.

Questions

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on the Trump administration Tuesday to release the intelligence behind last week's strike so that the American people can decide whether the provocative action was justified.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is pushing for the declassification of Trump's formal notification to Congress over Soleimani's killing, which has sparked a dangerous escalation between the two longtime foes.

Several sources have told CNN that the notification was brief, contained few operational details and essentially laid out the President's authorities to carry out the strike. That lack of detail has fueled questions about why it was classified to begin with, and administration officials have repeatedly publicly declined to provide the evidence behind the strike.

On Tuesday, Pompeo told reporters that senior officials presented Trump with the threats posed by Soleimani "in broad detail."

The top US diplomat didn't offer any evidence of an imminent threat, required to legally justify the strike, but instead referred to past events that he said Soleimani was responsible for. The Washington Post has reported that Pompeo had been lobbying Trump for months to kill Soleimani.

"We could see clearly everything Soleimani has done," Pompeo said, pointing to Iran's influence in Lebanon and other countries in the region where he said Tehran has denied people "sovereignty and freedom."

"If you're looking for imminence you need only look at the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani," Pompeo said, referencing the death of an American contractor in late December. He said the action against Soleimani "fit perfectly within our strategy" for countering Iran.

Pompeo mocked statements by Iraqi and Iranian officials that Soleimani had gone to Baghdad on a diplomatic mission, saying it "wasn't true."

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Iraqi parliament that Soleiman had traveled to Baghdad to discuss and coordinate a de-escalation of tensions with Saudi Arabia. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told CNN Soleiman's mission had been diplomatic in a Tuesday interview with CNN.

Pompeo ridiculed the idea. "Anybody here believe that?" he asked facetiously during the press conference with reporters at the State Department. "Is there any history that would indicate it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order, Qasem Soleimani had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission?"

Pompeo went on to say, without presenting evidence, that "we know that wasn't true. We not only know the history, we know in that moment that was not true. Zarif is a propogandist of the first order."

"I know there has been some story that he was there representing a Saudi peace deal," Pompeo said, characterizing the mission in terms that neither Iran nor Iraq have used. Though Soleimani wasn't able to conduct this outreach, Pompeo offered what he said was the Saudi perspective on the alleged diplomatic mission and what it meant to Americans, as opposed to Saudis.

"I can assure you that they share my view that he was not there representing some kind of agreement that would reduce risk or reduce the risk to lives of Americans when he was on that trip," Pompeo said.

Pompeo also continued to sidestep the President's threats to destroy Iranian cultural sites, arguing that "every action" the US takes "will be consistent with the international rule of law."

The top US diplomat claimed that his comments are consistent with Trump's, despite the fact that the President has doubled down on his threat to strike Iranian cultural sites, which would be a war crime.

'What are they afraid of?'

Instead, Pompeo deflected the blame to Iran itself and accused the Ayatollah of having "done damage to the Persian culture."

Pompeo later took to Twitter to continue his attack.

"No one has damaged Persian culture more than the Islamic Republic," Pompeo wrote, alleging bans on dancing and a lack of religious tolerance. "Iran's regime has defiled everything Iranians hold dear."

Pompeo was also asked about Zarif's claims that the US has denied him a visa to speak at a United Nations Security Council meeting set for Thursday. In an interview with NPR, Zarif said he had requested the visa 25 days ago, but the US State Department told him it "didn't have enough time to issue a visa."

"We don't comment on visa matters for those traveling to the United States," Pompeo said, but added that "we will always comply with our obligations" under the UN charter.

When asked by CNN's Fred Pleitgen about his reaction to being denied the visa, Zarif answered with a laugh, "Well, what are they afraid of?" When pushed as to whether he was concerned about it, Zarif said, "no."

Lafayette
Mostly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 64°
Kokomo
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 61°
Rensselaer
Mostly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 59°
Lafayette
Mostly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 64°
Danville
Mostly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 59°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 61°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 61°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 60°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 60°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 61°
Some More Frost & Light Freezing Ahead......
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 707111

Reported Deaths: 13216
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion963501718
Lake51613944
Allen39106671
Hamilton34449405
St. Joseph33979539
Elkhart27255432
Vanderburgh22060394
Tippecanoe21765212
Porter17945298
Johnson17507374
Hendricks16786310
Clark12681190
Madison12338337
Vigo12204244
Monroe11443166
LaPorte11118204
Delaware10341184
Howard9652211
Kosciusko9114114
Hancock7964139
Bartholomew7880155
Warrick7681155
Floyd7555176
Wayne6895198
Grant6837171
Boone6541100
Morgan6390138
Dubois6079117
Marshall5779108
Dearborn569876
Cass5683102
Henry5572100
Noble540683
Jackson493069
Shelby478495
Lawrence4338118
Gibson427989
Harrison427670
Clinton418653
Montgomery417786
DeKalb409184
Huntington378680
Whitley377939
Miami372465
Knox365989
Steuben364457
Putnam352560
Jasper350146
Wabash347678
Adams337952
Ripley334568
Jefferson312980
White308154
Daviess289299
Wells286281
Decatur278792
Fayette277162
Greene270685
Posey268533
Scott261053
Clay253244
LaGrange252470
Randolph235280
Washington230731
Spencer227631
Jennings224747
Fountain208445
Sullivan207742
Starke203952
Owen192156
Fulton191439
Jay186029
Carroll185720
Perry180236
Orange177253
Rush170724
Vermillion166043
Franklin165635
Tipton160943
Parke144616
Blackford133831
Pike130234
Pulaski113645
Newton103534
Brown100040
Crawford97614
Benton96713
Martin82615
Warren79615
Switzerland7698
Union69910
Ohio55711
Unassigned0408

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events