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National Security & Defense

Pompeo Says Administration Is Not Sure ‘Where’ or ‘When’ Soleimani Planned ‘Imminent Attacks’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, D.C., December 19, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the Trump administration does not know “precisely when” or “precisely where” Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was planning to launch the “imminent attacks” against U.S. assets that the administration cited as justification for the airstrike that killed him last week.

“There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks being plotted by Qasem Soleimani,” Pompeo told Fox News. “We don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”

The U.S. launched an airstrike in Baghdad on January 3 that killed Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

U.S. officials said they believed Soleimani had been plotting “imminent attacks” on U.S. facilities in the surrounding region that could have killed hundreds of Americans, though multiple reports citing senior diplomatic and military officials have contradicted the claim that an imminent threat had emerged in the days before the airstrike.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Soleimani had intentions not only to take action against our forces, our diplomats in Iraq but in other countries around the region and world as well,” Pompeo said.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle expressed outrage after a briefing on the airstrike delivered Wednesday by Pompeo and other officials. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah led the charge, calling it “the worst” military briefing he’s ever attended before backtracking on Thursday. Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky joined Lee in criticizing Pompeo and other intelligence officials for refusing to divulge more information about what prompted the strike and for counseling lawmaker against publicly debating the merits of further escalation.

“I thought we did a dynamite job,” Pompeo said. “We did our level best to present them with all the facts that we could in that setting.”

“We shared an awful lot with them yesterday,” the secretary of state added. “I think members of Congress get frustrated with this sometimes.”

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