News and Commentary

Report: Soleimani Strike Planned ‘Months’ Ago, Trump Waited For Embassy Attack
A file photo dated September 18, 2016 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani during Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's meeting with Revolutionary Guards, in Tehran, Iran.
Photo by Pool / Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office /Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

NBC News reports Monday that President Donald Trump signed off on launching a strike against the head of the Iranian Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as many as seven months ago but was waiting for the right time to pull the trigger, according to the outlet’s sources within the White House and Defense Department.

According to NBC News, an order to kill Soleimai would go out if “Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American.”

A week ago Friday, Trump made the ultimate decision to end Soleimani’s life in response to an attack on the United States embassy in Baghdad, which left a military translator dead and several members of the U.S. military wounded. The embassy was left in ruins. Iraqi officials initially claimed the incident was the end result of “protests” and “riots” against American influence in the Middle Eastern country, but it quickly became clear that Iran had orchestrated the unrest, and that Soleimani was the chief architect behind Iran’s efforts to destabilize Iraq.

Killing Soleimani was presented among a “menu” of options, NBC News reports, designed to send a message to Iran that meddling in Iraq’s fragile peace wouldn’t be tolerated.

“‘There have been a number of options presented to the president over the course of time,’ a senior administration official said, adding that it was ‘some time ago’ that the president’s aides put assassinating Soleimani on the list of potential responses to Iranian aggression,” NBC reports.

Former national security advisor John Bolton actually suggested killing Soleimani last summer, after Iran downed a U.S. drone, but Trump ultimately declined the opportunity, noting, sources say, that an attack on an unmanned drone didn’t rise to a serious enough level.

NBC News claims that the new information “undermines” the White House’s stated justification for killing Soleimani — that the Iranian general was planning a series of “imminent attacks” on United States embassies in Iraq and elsewhere — but the Trump administration’s hard line on Soleimani, that an American had to die before action was taken, could have easily moved since June, particularly if American lives were left in danger by Soleimani’s continued presence in Iraq.

United States intelligence tracked Soleimani, NBC says, for years before deciding more aggressive action might need to be taken. Bolton, who helped design the Trump administration’s foreign policy — and specifically its policy toward Iran — during his time in office, was particularly interested in putting an end to Soleimani’s reign of terror.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have cooled considerably since the Soleimani strike. Iran launched a series of missiles at Iraqi bases that house American troops last week, but, they now admit, shot down a Ukrainian airliner by accident in the volley, likely putting an end to any continued aggression against the United States.

The House will vote this week, also, to curb President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war against the Middle Eastern nation by restricting the “use of force” authorization inked in the years following the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is expected to press a similar measure in the Senate.