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Trump reportedly authorised the Soleimani strike 7 months ago, throwing a wrench through his argument that there was an 'imminent threat'

Grace Panetta , Business Insider US
 Jan 14, 2020, 12:42 PM
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on the latest steps his Administration is taking to reverse regulations and proposed National Environmental Policy Act regulations in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Thursday, Jan 09, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump authorised the US military strike against Iranian military and intelligence leader Qassem Soleimani seven months before it was carried out, NBC News reported on Monday.
  • According to NBC, Trump gave a directive authorising a strike against Soleimani back in June of 2019 "if Iran's increased aggression resulted in the death of an American."
  • The new revelations significantly undermine the administration's claim that Soleimani needed to be killed because he posed an "imminent threat" to American lives in the region.
  • On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS' "Face The Nation" that he himself "didn't see" the evidence to support Trump's claim that Soleimani was about to attack US embassies
  • Killing Soleimani was first floated as an option to contain Iran's aggressive military posturing by Trump's former National Security Adviser former Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster all the way back in 2017, NBC said.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinesInsider.co.za.

President Donald Trump authorised the US military strike against Iranian military and intelligence leader Qassem Soleimani seven months before it was carried out, NBC News reported on Monday.

According to NBC, Trump gave a directive authorising a strike against Soleimani in June of 2019 "if Iran's increased aggression resulted in the death of an American." The report significantly undermines the administration's claim that Soleimani needed to be killed because he posed an "imminent threat" to American lives.

On January 2, the Pentagon confirmed that, at Trump's direction, US forces killed Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad's airport. The strike took place less than a week after Iranian proxy forces attacked US-allied forces in Iraq, resulting in the death of a US military contractor.

Since the strike on Soleimani, US officials have given thinly-sourced and often contradictory justifications as to why the US decided to strike the Iranian leader now, a move that has drastically inflamed tensions between the US and Iran, putting both US forces and allies in the region at risk.

While US officials including Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they had intelligence showing Soleimani was planning an immediate and lethal attack, they failed to brief Congress on the threat before launching the strike, and have not provided any specific details to support Trump's claim that Soleimani had plans to attack four US embassies.

Trump's justifications for the stirke faced further scruity after both Democratic and Republican members of Congress found the administration's after-the-fact briefings to be unsubstantiated and unconvincing, with GOP Sen. Mike Lee calling the briefing "terrible" and an "unmitigated disaster" before trying to walk back his comments.

On Sunday, the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS' "Face The Nation" that he himself "didn't see" the evidence to support Trump's claim that Soleimani was about to attack US embassies.

"The president didn't cite a specific piece of evidence, what he said was he believed," Esper said."I didn't see one, with regard to four embassies. What I'm saying is that I shared the president's view that my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies."

The NBC report sheds new light on how the administration came to the decision to strike Soleimani, which according to US officials, was first floated as an option to contain Iran's aggressive military posturing by Trump's former National Security Adviser former Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in "broader national security strategy" discussions in 2017.

Other sources told NBC that when McMaster was replaced by Iran hawk John Bolton in the spring of 2018, Bolton advocated for more confrontational action towards Iran, including urging Trump to strike Soleimani in June of 2019 as tensions escalated in the region, culminating in Iran shooting down a US drone.

Officials told the outlet that Trump pushed back on Bolton and Pompeo's desire for him to authorise a strike at that point, indicating to officials that he would only take the step of striking Soleimani if Iran killed an American.

As the leader of the elite and secretive Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which carries out foreign intelligence operations outside of Iran, Soleimani abetted terrorism and violence throughout the region for decades. The Pentagon has said that he's responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US service members in Iraq and beyond.

The Trump administration has adopted a far more adversarial approach to Iran, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and designating the Quds force as a terrorist organisation in 2019.

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