In an apparent about-face, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was part of a “bigger strategy of deterrence”, a shift from President Donald Trump’s previous claim that the deadly drone strike was carried out to prevent an “imminent” attack.
“I want to lay this out in context of what we’ve been trying to do. There’s a bigger strategy to this. President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrence — real deterrence ‒ against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said during a speech at the Stanford’s Hoover Institute on Monday.
Pompeo made the comments as immediately after the January 3 drone strike that claimed the life of General Soleimani, he said Soleimani had been involved in planning an “imminent attack” in the region that “put American lives at risk”.
US secretary of state’s Monday remarks were echoed by US Attorney General William Barr.
“I believe there was intelligence of imminent attack, but I do believe that concept of imminence is something of a red herring,” Barr said during a press conference in Florida.
“We believed that the strike would restore deterrence and help avoid a upward spiral of the violence,” Barr added.
Also on Sunday, Pentagon Chief Mark Esper said he “had seen no intelligence forewarning of imminent attacks on embassies”, further diluting the claim that the top Iranian General was assassinated because he was plotting imminent attacks on US targets.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that State Department officials involved in US embassy security were not made aware of imminent threats to four specific US embassies, as was claimed by President Trump.
Trump once again asserted Monday that the intelligence led to Soleimani’s assassination, but again declined to provide evidence supporting the claim.
On January 3, a US drone carried out an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport early, assassinating General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), as well as eight other people.
Both commanders were admired by Muslim nations for their great acts to eliminate the US-sponsored Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.