Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended President Donald Trump‘s decision to order an operational drone to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, stating that Trump had been under immense pressure from Iranian leadership to act amid due to a grave threat.
Pompeo reiterated that Trump had done nothing illegal, in his decision to assassinate an Islamic terrorist, who was plotting to target and kill thousands of U.S. diplomats, foreign officials and citizens. “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.”
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Pompeo made his statement, amid a public outcry, over whether the decision to assassinate Soleimani, along with the amount of strategic planning to carry out the mission, had been justified. The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee demanded that the White House release the intel involved in the assassination to let Americans decide whether Trump’s order was justified.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) are putting pressure on Congress, under Executive Order 13526, to declassify the documents in which Trump formally notified Congress about his operational killing of Soleimani. Declassified documents are limited for release under the Freedom of Information Act.
On Tuesday, Pompeo told to reporters that senior officials had presented Trump with descriptive threats that Soleimani had planned to carry out.
“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 stated, referencing the death of an American contractor in December. He said the action taken against the general “fit perfectly within our strategy” for countering Iran.
Pompeo’s statement came after Trump reiterated his threat that the United States could potentially target 52 Iranian cultural sites, amid escalating tensions between the world power and the nation-state.
“They’re allowed to kill our people,” Trump retorted. “They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.”
Trump’s note about the potential targeting of select Iranian cultural sites came on Sunday, one day after his social media post on Twitter.
Trump tweeted that the U.S. was ready to attack 52 Iranian assets, including some which were “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”
Attacking these sites could violate international agreements, like the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that the United States would act in accord with the law and legal regulations surrounding the matter.
Trump later walked back his threat to cultural sites.