On 14 February 2020, in a legally required unclassified memorandum to Congress, the Trump administration said it was authorised under both the Constitution and the 2002 Authorisation of Use of Military Force Against Iraq. The Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Engel said "The 2002 authorisation was passed to deal with Saddam Hussein. 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," adding that he "looked forward" to Pompeo testifying in a February 28 hearing.
On 4 January, the funeral procession for Soleimani, al-Muhandis, and the Iraqi and Iranian militants was held in Baghdad and attended by thousands of mourners who chanted "death to America, death to Israel". Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was also present. The cortege began around Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, a Shiite holy site in Baghdad, before heading to the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound where a state funeral was held. From Baghdad, the procession moved to the Shia holy city of Karbala and on to Najaf, where al-Muhandis and the other Iraqis were buried, while the coffins of Soleimani and the Iranian nationals were sent to Iran. Following the mourning procession in Baghdad, unknown people fired short-range rockets towards the U.S. embassy and at the U.S. Balad Air Base. The U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, said no Americans were harmed by the sporadic rocket attacks on 4 January.More Info
On the day of the strike, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo asserted the attack was ordered by Trump to disrupt an "imminent attack" by Soleimani operatives, although subsequent reports on that rationale were mixed. On 9 January, Trump said "We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy. We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died, one of our military people died. People were badly wounded just a week before." On 10 January, Trump claimed that Soleimani had been planning attacks on four U.S. embassies in the Middle East. Afterwards several members of Congress, including Mike Lee and Chris Murphy, claimed that the Trump administration had not informed them of this in the intelligence briefing on the strike. Three days after Trump's remarks, Defense Secretary Mark Esper clarified that, although "there was evidence" of a plot against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the president "didn't cite intelligence" about the other three embassies he mentioned, and that the president instead shared his belief that there "probably could have been" a plot against those embassies.More Info
A spokesman for the Iranian government said the country's top security body would hold an extraordinary meeting shortly to discuss the "criminal act of attack". Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that "retaliation is waiting". On 4 January, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there was "no specific, credible" threat to the U.S. mainland but warned about Iranian capabilities. Trump warned Tehran that any retaliation would result in the U.S. targeting 52 Iranian significant sites, including cultural sites. The 52 sites were reported to represent the 52 American hostages held during the Iran hostage crisis. Hossein Dehghan, the main military adviser of Iran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asserted that attacks on Iranian cultural sites would be grave breaches of international law. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo avoided a direct answer when asked about cultural targets, saying that Washington will do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with U.S. law. U.S. secretary of defense Mark Esper later asserted that cultural sites would not be targeted because "That's the laws of armed conflict."More Info
These activities preceded escalating concern and terror designations of Soleimani by the Obama administration. The first such designation was made in May, 2011, in response to Soleimani's assistance to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate in the violent suppression of Syrian protestors. The second, and more serious designation by the Obama administration came in October, 2011, after a plot was revealed in which four senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officers were planning to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador while in the United States, under the supervision of Soleimani.More Info
On 25 August 2019, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said, "Israel is acting to strike the head of the Iranian snake and uproot its teeth ... Iran is the head of the snake and Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, is the snake's teeth." In October 2019, Hossein Taeb, chief of the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, told the press that his agency had arrested an unspecified number of people, allegedly foiling a plot by Israeli and Arab agencies to assassinate Soleimani. He said they had planned to "buy a property adjacent to the grave of Soleimani's father and rig it with explosives to kill the commander". He added the way of the assassination would have appeared as part of an internal Iranian power struggle to "trigger a religious war inside Iran". Yossi Cohen, chief of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency (Mossad), said in response, "Soleimani knows that his assassination is not impossible."More Info
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