Washington — The Trump administration will “do our best” to explain to the public the details of threats to American diplomats and service members that justified the strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday.
“We understand the obligation to share with the American people why it is we’re taking the action we can and we will do so,” Pompeo said on “Face the Nation.” “President Trump has done so in tweets. I have done so in messages.”
Soleimani was killed in an airstrike in Baghdad early Friday, further heightening tensions between the U.S. and Tehran. The president said Friday the U.S. learned Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks on U.S. diplomats and military personnel, though administration officials have declined to provide further details.
The White House sent Congress on Saturday a formal notification of the strike as required under the War Powers Act. The document, however, was classified, prompting a stinging rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the notification “prompts serious and urgent questions.”
But Pompeo said the details of the threat against Americans have been shared with Congress and congressional leadership, and lawmakers will be able to see “most all of that same information” when they return to Washington this week.
“I don’t think any reasonable American elected official would see what President Trump and I and Secretary [Mark] Esper saw and conclude that we could’ve done anything but the action that we took,” he said, referring to the secretary of defense.
Pompeo declined to say whether the threat against American interests remains imminent.
“There remains enormous set of risk in the region, and America is preparing for each and every one of them,” he said. “That includes not only threats from the proxy militias in Iraq, but in the region more broadly along every vector, including cyber.”
Mr. Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani, according to the Defense Department, and Pompeo said the president’s national security advisers were in agreement that the Quds leader needed to be killed.
“It was the collective decision,” he said. “It was intelligence analysis that doing nothing created far more risk than the action that we took.”
While the president said the strike targeting Soleimani was not intended to start a war, he warned in a series of tweets Saturday that if Iran followed through with its threat of “crushing revenge,” the U.S. would hit 52 Iranian sites “very fast and very hard.”