A White House memo to Congress justifying the drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani undercut President Trump and his administration’s claims that the operation was ordered to stop an “imminent attack,” The New York Times reports.
The memo providing the official reason for killing Soleimani says the operation was in response to “an escalating series” of Iranian-backed attacks on American forces in the Middle East in past months and intended to deter future attacks.
The action was in “national self-defense,” the memo said. "Iran's past and recent activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran's Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq."
Though the memo says that the president is empowered to use military force to stop an imminent attack, it does not detail what imminent attack the strike was meant to deter.
Memo undercuts Trump’s claims:
The memo does not detail an imminent attack posed to the US embassy in Baghdad or other embassies as Trump claimed in interviews following the strike. Trump later insisted on Twitter that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack, but added, “it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that strike was meant to stop an “imminent” attack.
"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,” he told CNN. “The risk of doing nothing was enormous. The intelligence community made that assessment, and President Trump acted decisively last night."
Democrats say Trump lied:
“This official report directly contradicts the president’s false assertion that he attacked Iran to prevent an imminent attack against United States personnel and embassies,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement. “The administration’s explanation in this report makes no mention of any imminent threat and shows that the justification the president offered to the American people was false, plain and simple.”
Engel also slammed the administration citing the authorization of military force used to go into Iraq as the authorization for the strike on Soleimani.
“To suggest that 18 years later this authorization could justify killing an Iranian official stretches the law far beyond anything Congress ever intended,” he said.