Pompeo struggles to defend killing of Iranian general


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to justify why the United States killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a string of television interviews.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on several news networks over the weekend to try and explain why Donald Trump authorized the military strike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani — a move that could spark escalating violence.

Pompeo in large part sidestepped requests for details on the matter, throwing Trump's decision further into question.

The public line from the White House so far has been that Soleimani was planning an "imminent attack" that required an immediate hit on the general.

"It was the time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qassem Soleimani and the Iranian regime — as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation," Pompeo said Friday morning on CNN. "The risk of doing nothing was enormous. The intelligence community made that assessment, and President Trump acted decisively last night."

However, CNN has since reported that there is "skepticism" among national security officials about whether there really was an imminent threat that required Soleimani's murder.

The Washington Post also reported that Pompeo has long fought for aggressive action against Iran and spoke with Trump "months ago" about killing Soleimani — calling into question whether he was simply waiting for a justification.

NBC's Chuck Todd pushed Pompeo on the issue Sunday morning, saying that a successor to Soleimani had already been named and asking Pompeo why he was "convinced that taking out Soleimani has done anything to stop" the imminent threat.

Pompeo dodged the question, telling Todd that the United States would be "culpably negligent had we not taken this action."

When pressed on CNN about whether there was still a threat because Iran has vowed to respond in kind to Soleimani's killing, Pompeo suggested there may be additional violence.

"I've been part of the discussion and planning process — everything I’ve seen about how we will respond with great force and great vigor if the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision," Pompeo said on CNN’s 'State of the Union.' "We hope that they won’t, but when they do, America will respond."

Pompeo also lied during an appearance on Fox News when he tried to deny that Trump threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites — a move that, if taken, would amount to war crimes.

"President Trump didn't say he'd go after a cultural site — read what he said," Pompeo said.

Trump, in fact, said exactly that, tweeting over the weekend that he would respond to any retaliatory moves from Iran by bombing "52 Iranian sites" some of them "important to Iran & the Iranian culture."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.