Pompeo: Any actions by Trump in Iran will be 'lawful'
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said there was no skepticism within the Trump administration about the intelligence behind the decision to kill a top Iranian general last week, and that any moves taken by the U.S. against Tehran will be “lawful.”
“We’ll behave inside the system,” Pompeo said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, one of several appearances on political talk shows. Meanwhile, an Iranian military adviser warned of retaliation against U.S. military sites.
Pompeo spoke days after the U.S. killed top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and hours after President Donald Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric against the Islamic Republic and after saying on Friday that the U.S. wasn’t seeking to start a war.
The knock-on affects of the U.S. move continued to build on Sunday as Iraq’s parliament asked the government to work toward ending the presence of foreign forces in its territory, SkyNews Arabia reported. Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo insisted U.S. troops will remain in Iraq.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Pompeo was pressed about administration claims that an attack orchestrated by Soleimani against U.S. interests had been “imminent” – the rationale behind the deadly drone strike on the general as he was driven on an access road leaving Baghdad International Airport.
It was “not relevant” whether such an attack was days or weeks away, Pompeo said, adding that the U.S. needed to protect its intelligence “sources and methods.”
Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said administration officials had “provided no evidence” of an imminent threat when they briefed congressional aides on Friday.. “We don’t go around killing all the bad people in the world,” Van Hollen said on Fox.
Pompeo was asked about Trump’s threat on Saturday to hit “52 Iranian sites,” including cultural targets, if Tehran retaliates for Soleimani’s killing, as it has promised. The tweet raised concerns because attacks against cultural property are prohibited under the Geneva Convention.
“I’ve seen what we’re planning,” Pompeo said on ABC. Every target “is lawful.”
On CNN, though, Pompeo wouldn’t specifically commit to not targeting cultural centers, and said Trump’s tweet referencing such targets in Iran didn’t deviate “one iota” from the rule of law.
“We will respond with great force and great vigor if the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision. We hope that they won’t,” Pompeo said.
Before Trump’s tweets, sent from his Florida resort and which continued until the early hours of Sunday, Pompeo had stressed that the U.S. was committed to de-escalating tensions with Iran in a series of phone calls with his counterparts in Middle East and elsewhere.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended Trump’s actions and his ramped-up Twitter threats against Iran.
“This president has shown – he’s not getting enough credit for it – tremendous restraint,” Rubio said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Asked whether the administration had articulated evidence to Congress of a clear, imminent threat to the U.S. immediately before the Baghdad airstrike, Rubio responded: “I understand it, and it’s called self defense.” On Thursday Rubio tweeted, without evidence, that Iran’s Soleimani had been “plotting a coup in Iraq.”
Senior Pentagon officials briefed staff members from the House Armed Service Committee and Senate Armed Service Committee on Friday about recent threats and attacks on U.S. personnel and interests, including the 11 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq since October and attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 27.
Pompeo said more congressional briefings would come this week. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on ABC that that the White House’s formal notice to Congress on the Soleimani hit, delivered on Saturday, had been “very unsatisfying” on the reasoning behind the strike.
“I think Congress, and I will do everything I can to assert our authority,” Schumer said. “We do not need this president either bumbling or impulsively getting us into a major war.”
A top Iranian military adviser said Sunday that Tehran’s response to Soleimani’s killing would be focused on U.S. military sites.
“It might be argued that there could be proxy operations. We can say America, Mr. Trump, has taken action directly against us – so we take direct action against America,” Irani Major General Hossein Hehghan, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, told SNN.
On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s classified War Powers Act notification “raises more questions than it answers.”