Defense Secretary Mark Esper has acknowledged he did not see specific evidence that Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks against U.S. embassies at the time U.S. forces assassinated him in a drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport a week ago Friday. This is despite Trump’s claims that Soleimani was planning to attack embassies.
President Donald Trump: “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies. … But Baghdad certainly would have been the lead, but I think it would have been four embassies, could have been military bases, could have been a lot of other things, too. But it was imminent, and then all of a sudden he was gone.”
That was President Trump on Friday. But this is Esper speaking with CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan Sunday.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper: “He didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been.”
Margaret Brennan: “Are you saying there wasn’t one?”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper: “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies. What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that probably, my expectation was, they were going to go after our embassies.”
NBC is reporting President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Qassem Soleimani seven months ago. Meanwhile, The Washington Post has revealed U.S. forces unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate a top Iranian commander in Yemen on the same day Soleimani was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad, suggesting Soleimani’s death was part of a large U.S. campaign to target Iranian commanders. Abdul Reza Shahlai, the commander of the Yemen division of Iran’s elite Quds Force, survived the assassination attempt that killed at least a member of the Quds Force. This all comes as The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump reportedly told associates after Soleimani’s killing that he had been facing pressure to deal with Soleimani from Republican senators that he viewed as important supporters in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.