Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the lead again Tuesday defending the decision to kill Iran military leader General Qasem Soleimani as a deadly stampede of mourners overshadowed Soleimani’s hometown burial.
During a news conference, Pompeo scoffed at claims Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission in Iraq at the time of his death. It was a claim made by Iran’s foreign minister. As the rhetoric of revenge flows from Iran, there’s also mourning some of which turned deadly.
High emotions in a multitude of thousands led to a stampede Tuesday in Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured.
Meanwhile halfway around the world, Pompeo underscored the Trump administration’s decision to take action on Soleimani because of an imminent threat based on intelligence and history.
“It was the right decision. We got it right,” Pompeo said. “If you’re looking for imminence you need to look no further than the days that led up to action taken against Soleimani,”
Iranian lawmakers passed an urgent bill declaring the US military command as terrorists, chanting “Death to America, no compromise, no surrender, revenge.”
Revenge is exactly what Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif says will be carried out in the open “at a time it hurts most.”
“We don’t carry cowardly acts of terror like the United States,” Zarif said. “I’m sure it will be taken at a time of our choosing not at a time of the United State’s choosing.”
Zarif claims Soleimani was in Iraq on a diplomatic mission when a US drone strike killed him near the airport.
“Is there any evidence that it was remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order had traveled to Baghdad to conduct a peace mission,” Pompeo questioned sarcastically. “We know that wasn’t true. We not only know the history. We know in that moment that was not true.”
Questions remain over a leaked, confusing memo from the Pentagon regarding US troops in Iraq. It seemed to imply measures are being taken to ensure troop movement out of Iraq is safe and efficient. But Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says there has been no decision to pull troops out of Iraq, even though the Iraqi Parliament voted to kick them out.
Esper also put a fine point on how imminent the threat Soleimani posed to the United States was when asked if it was days or weeks away.
“I think it’s more fair to say days for sure,” he said.