Some U.S. individuals noted that since the airstrike was orchestrated without the specific authorization of Congress, there were a number of legal questions. The case was compared by AP reporter John Daniszewski to the drone killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki during the Obama administration. Some analysts maintained that Trump had the authority to order the strike under Article Two of the United States Constitution, while the ambiguity of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) law may help Trump justify it.
According to a report by NBC News, Eric Edelman, a career foreign services officer with senior diplomatic posts at the time, U.S. commander Army Gen. George Casey considered designating Soleimani and Quds Force officers enemy combatants, thus making them subject to military action. However, the idea was ruled out over concerns of opening a "new front" in the war. Edelman stated, "There were a lot of us who thought he should be taken out. But at the end of the day, they decided not to do that," due to concern of starting simultaneous conflict with Iran.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
According to The New York Times, Trump initially rejected the option to target Soleimani on 28 December 2019, but made the decision after being angered by television news reports of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad under attack by Iranian-backed protesters on 31 December. By late 2 January, Trump had finalized his decision of the most extreme option his advisors had provided him, which reportedly "stunned" top Pentagon officials. The Times report cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying the intelligence regarding Soleimani's alleged plot against the U.S. was "thin" and that the Ayatollah had not approved any operation for Soleimani to carry out. However, General Milley said the intelligence was "clear and unambiguous" with a time frame of "days, weeks". U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence were reportedly the most hawkish voices arguing to retaliate against Iran. Vice President Pence later wrote that Soleimani was plotting "imminent" attacks on U.S. persons. U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien insisted that Soleimani "was plotting to kill, to attack American facilities, and diplomats, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were located at those facilities".More Info
Ever since the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88), in which Iran felt attacked not only by Saddam Hussein's Iraq but by the international community siding with Saddam against Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic republic in Tehran, with notably the U.S. supplying weapons and intelligence to Iraq, Soleimani had developed into the architect of all of Iran's foreign policies in the Middle East, and a key figure in all of Iran's foreign and defence policies. He provided crucial support to President Bashar al-Assad's regime during the Syrian Civil War. He even wrote U.S. General David Petraeus, then Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, a letter in early 2008 to tell him: "General Petraeus, you must know that I, Qasem Soleimani, am in charge of the Iranian policies concerning Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan".More Info
In a speech broadcast on 8 January on Iranian television IRINN TV and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute into English, Iranian President Rouhani stated that Iran will no longer stick to the 2015 nuclear agreement restrictions on uranium enrichment: "Iran's nuclear industry will prosper" he said. Secondly, Rouhani mentioned in his speech that "They cut off the hand of our dear Soleimani" and as revenge they, the Iranians, would cut off the legs of the Americans and toss them out of neighboring countries.More Info
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