Trump Reiterates US Faced ‘Imminent Threat’ of Attack by Soleimani Amid Conflicting Claims on Intel

Trump Reiterates US Faced ‘Imminent Threat’ of Attack by Soleimani Amid Conflicting Claims on Intel REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque

US officials have struggled to present a cohesive narrative on the threat allegedly posed by Qasem Soleimani to US interests in the Middle East, vacillating on whether the senior Iranian general posed an "imminent" threat or not.

US President Donald Trump has accused the "Fake News Media" and their "Democrat Partners" of doubting his administration's narrative on whether Gen. Soleimani's alleged future plans to attack the US were "imminent" or not.

According to Trump, his administration was "in agreement" that the threat was "imminent," but "it doesn't really matter because of [Soleimani's] horrible past!"

The US president accused the media and his Democratic opponents of "trying to make terrorist Soleimani into a wonderful guy, only because I did what should have been done for 20 years."

Trump appeared to misspell "imminent" in his first tweet, writing it as "eminent" instead before correcting. In the follow-up tweet, he (presumably mistakenly) referred to his opponents as the "Rafical Left."

Senior White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have had a difficult time sticking to a single narrative on the intelligence justifying the US decision to assassinate Soleimani. On Sunday, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper appeared to challenge the president over claims that Soleimani planned to attack four US embassies, saying that he personally "didn't see" any decisive intelligence with regard to the embassy threat claims. Trump himself previously said the US killed the Iranian general because of his plan to blow up only the US embassy in Baghdad. But Secretary of State Pompeo told journalists last week that he could not provide any information about the time or place Soleimani allegedly planned to attack the US.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed officials, that the Trump administration had been mulling Soleimani's assassination since as far back as July 2018, with more concrete plans formulated in September by the military. On Monday, NBC News reported, citing officials, that Trump issued a directive to kill Soleimani in June, after Iran destroyed a $220 million US spy drone over Iranian airspace in the Strait of Hormuz.

Soleimani, 62, was killed on January 3 when the vehicle he was traveling in was struck by a US Reaper drone at Baghdad International Airport. The commander's death brought tensions between Iran and the US to an all-time high, and prompted Tehran to fire multiple rockets at US bases in Iraq. Iraq's parliament has issued a resolution demanding the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces in Iraq. However, Trump National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said Sunday that the US would only leave "on our terms."