US officials defend decision to kill Iranian general
WASHINGTON – White House officials defended themselves on Sunday the american murder Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, while acknowledging potential loopholes in their claim that four US embassies had become imminent targets of an Iranian attack.
“Look, it’s still difficult, even with the exquisite intelligence we have, to know exactly who the targets are,” White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said on Fox News Sunday. . “We know there were threats against American facilities, now whether it was bases, embassies, you know it’s always difficult until the attack happens.”
The administration decision of January 3 killing General Soleimani, the country’s top military leader, was condemned by Iran and provoked Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq. The murder also preceded the accidental fall by Iran from a Ukrainian airliner to Tehran last week.
Democrats and some Republicans have criticized the administration, claiming that the president has exaggerated the imminence and scope of the planned Iranian attacks. Members of Congress said a threat to four embassies was not mentioned in a classified briefing last week.
President Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Friday that Tehran could have targeted four US embassies in the Middle East.
“I can reveal that I think it probably would have been four embassies,” Mr. Trump said, without providing any explanation, details or evidence.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday he had not seen specific evidence that the Iranians were planning to target four embassies.
“The president did not cite any specific evidence. What he said was he believed, ”Mr. Esper said on CBS’s“ Face the Nation ”. “I haven’t seen one for four embassies. What I am saying is that I shared the President’s opinion that I probably expected them to attack our embassies. The embassy is the most important manifestation of the American presence in a country.
Later, on CNN’s State of the Union, Esper said intelligence indicated that Iran was planning a larger and imminent attack on several US sites in the region, targeting at least the embassy. American in Baghdad. “Removing it from the battlefield – a legitimate military target – was the right thing to do,” he said, referring to General Soleimani.
Officials declined to release details of their assessment, with O’Brien saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it could jeopardize a “valuable flow” of information.
Analysts said it appeared the president overestimated the evidence for the targeted assassination because other members of the administration seemed uncomfortable saying the Iranians were likely targeting four embassies.
“Anyone can speculate that US embassies are attractive targets, but that’s just speculation,” said Christopher Preble, vice president of defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. “This is far from credible proof of imminent danger.”
Representative Adam Schiff, a Californian Democrat who heads the House Intelligence Committee, disputed the administration’s claims on the plots against the United States
“The quality and specificity of the intelligence has not reached the threshold necessary to carry out such a provocative targeted assassination of a senior Iranian official,” said Mr. Schiff, who is a member of the “Gang of Eight” of Congress who receive the most detailed information. intelligence briefings. “So I found the justification insufficient,” he said in an interview on Friday.
Write to Andrew Ackerman at [email protected]
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