16 February 2020 - 10:09
News ID: 449082
A
The White House says President Donald Trump ordered the strike that assassinated top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last month to respond to past attacks, contradicting Trump’s claim that he acted in response to "an imminent threat".

RNA - In its legally mandated, two-page unclassified memo to Congress, the White House said the targeted killing was "in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months by Iran and Iran-backed anti-terror militias on United States forces and interests in the Middle East region."

The White House memo confirmed what US lawmakers suspected as the Trump administration had offered fluctuating explanations for assassinating General Soleimani and struggled to rationalize Trump’s decision that brought the US and Iran to the brink of war, The New York Times said.

Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Eliot Engel said, “This official report directly contradicts the president’s false assertion that he attacked Iran to prevent an imminent attack against United States personnel and embassies."

"The administration’s explanation in this report makes no mention of any imminent threat and shows that the justification the president offered to the American people was false, plain and simple,” he said. 

The terrorist attack on General Soleimani launched without prior authorization from Congress also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), as well as eight other Iranian and Iraqi people.

The White House notice claimed that the assassination was consistent with a “longstanding interpretation of the President’s authority” under both Article II of the Constitution and an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congress passed in 2002 for the Iraq war.

Engel dismissed the argument, saying "to avoid having to justify its actions to Congress, the administration falsely claims Congress had already authorized the strike under the 2002 Iraq war resolution." 

"This legal theory is absurd. The 2002 authorization was passed to deal with [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein," he said.

"This law had nothing to do with Iran or Iranian government officials in Iraq. To suggest that 18 years later this authorization could justify killing an Iranian official stretches the law far beyond anything Congress ever intended," he added.

Trump had said the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was plotting attacks against four American embassies - a claim echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but rejected by other US officials.

Engel said he looked forward to questioning Pompeo on the legal justification provided for the assassination during his expected testimony this month.

“This spurious, after-the-fact explanation won’t do. We need answers and testimony, so I look forward to Secretary Pompeo testifying before the committee at an open Feb. 28 hearing on Iran and Iraq policy, including the Soleimani strike and war powers,” he said.

Former Pentagon special counsel Ryan Goodman said the White House report failed to provide a proper explanation for the strike on Gen. Soleimani and amounted to "a fundamental revision of existing legal foundations for military action."

"The administration’s notice raises very serious concerns about the legal basis for the strike and the president’s failure to go to Congress beforehand," he wrote on his blog.

On Thursday The New York Times revealed that Trump ordered the assassination to sabotage de-escalation talks between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the report, Pompeo met Mossad chief Yossi Cohen in October 2019 during a trip to Israel where he was briefed on Tehran's attempted de-escalation talks with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Cohen, it said, warned Pompeo that Tehran was effectively on the verge of achieving its "primary goal" of breaking up the so-called "anti-Iran" alliance.

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