In the immediate aftermath of the surprising airstrike that took out top Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani on the order of President Donald Trump, his administration asserted that the strike had been a preemptive act of “self-defense” due to intelligence that indicated Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks against Americans.
Though the administration has been less than forthcoming about the specifics or targets of the “imminent” attacks planned by Soleimani, President Trump revealed in an interview on Friday that the targets were most likely “four embassies,” including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, the Washington Examiner reported.
Soleimani’s recent history
It must be remembered that the strike on Soleimani was precipitated by a “protest” at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve that was in actuality a coordinated attempted assault on the compound by Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq organized and directed by Soleimani.
That “protest” had in turn been precipitated by U.S. airstrikes on several of the militia’s bases launched in response to a militia rocket attack on a U.S. base in northern Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded several American soldiers.
All of that seems to have been forgotten or ignored by the president’s critics who have demanded to see all of the intelligence that led the administration to believe that Soleimani had more attacks against Americans and U.S. interests planned to occur in the immediate future.
“Probably would’ve been four embassies”
In an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, President Trump was asked what, specifically, had been targeted for attack by Soleimani ahead of the airstrike that disrupted his plot. Trump replied, “We will tell you that probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad.”
Pressed for more details on whether the plot extended to other targets in the region, the president said, “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo struck a similar chord in a press briefing held earlier on Friday during which additional economic sanctions on Iran were announced.
“We had specific information on an imminent threat and that threat stream included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period. Full stop,” he said of the reason for the airstrike on Soleimani. Pressed to define what “imminent” meant in terms of the threat posed, he simply replied, “It was going to happen.”
Abundance of caution
Though some will undoubtedly claim that the revelations from Trump and Pompeo about Soleimani-planned attacks against multiple U.S. embassies in and around the Middle East aren’t specific enough, it seems unlikely that anything more detailed will be forthcoming in the near future.
There is a strong possibility that Soleimani’s plans are still being weighed and may even be put into action by those who followed him, and a more detailed exposure of the potentially still-ongoing plots could conceivably reveal the “sources and methods” used by the U.S. to gain knowledge of them.
Perhaps one day there will be more to be said about what, exactly, Soleimani was plotting before a drone strike ended his reign of terror, but at least as of now we will have to be content in the knowledge that he was likely planning coordinated attacks with his proxies on several U.S. targets across the region.