Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that President Trump ordered a drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, to disrupt an "imminent attack" in the region.
The Pentagon announced Thursday night that Trump had ordered the strike against Soleimani, a dramatic escalation of tensions with Tehran that Democrats have warned "brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East" and compared to "[tossing] a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox." Iran has said it will harshly retaliate, and the State Department has urged U.S. citizens to leave Iraq "immediately."
On Friday morning, Pompeo told CNN it was an "intelligence-based assessment" that led to Trump's decision and that the strike was necessary to disrupt an "imminent attack." Pompeo clarified the U.S. was responding to "threats that were located in the region," not to the U.S. homeland.
The secretary of state did not provide further details on the nature of these threats, not commenting when asked if he's referring to there being a specific target overseas, but he said the "risk of doing nothing was enormous" and that "the intelligence community made that assessment."
On Friday morning, Pompeo also tweeted that he spoke over the phone with Chinese, British, and German officials, discussing Trump's decision while assuring them that the U.S. "remains committed to de-escalation." He reinterated the point in a Fox News interview Friday morning, saying "We don't seek war with Iran."
.@SecPompeo says Iran's top military leader Qasem Soleimani was actively plotting in the Middle East and that "President Trump's decision to remove Qasem Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives."https://t.co/jsfwGuBY8l pic.twitter.com/66XTgFacwh
— New Day (@NewDay) January 3, 2020