President Donald Trump signed off on the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in June, undercutting his administration’s claims that the killing was ordered to stop an imminent attack, NBC News reports.
Trump approved of a plan to kill Soleimani in June if Iranian aggression resulted in the death of an American.
Trump’s instructions came under the condition that he would have the final say on any operation to kill Soleimani.
The strike ultimately came after an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia killed a US contractor and wounded four US service members.
“The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration's stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3,” NBC reported. “Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.”
Trump officials wanted to kill Soleimani earlier:
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Trump to kill Soleimani after Iran shot down an American drone in June.
Trump said he would only do so “if they hit Americans,” according to the report.
“U.S. intelligence officials have closely tracked Soleimani's movements for years,” NBC reported. “When Trump came into office, Pompeo, who was Trump's first CIA director, urged the president to consider taking a more aggressive approach to Soleimani after showing him new intelligence on what a second senior administration official described as ‘very serious threats that didn't come to fruition.’”
Mattis stopped Trump from killing Soleimani earlier:
Though the NBC report covered administration discussions last year, The Washington Post reports that Trump had discussed killing Soleimani as early as five months after taking office -- even though he appeared to not know who Soleimani was during the campaign.
Trump floated the idea of killing Soleimani in spring of 2017 after Iranian-backed Yemeni rebels attacked Saudi Arabia ahead of Trump’s visit.
Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis resisted any action. He was joined in the pushback by former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.
“It’s an idea that’s been batted around for a while,” a former senior Pentagon official told The Post. “It’s not a hard or particularly complicated idea to come up with.”